After all the drama of winning the contest, Johnny Cage was more interested in tying up loose ends than actually pursuing something with a woman who'd probably enjoy beating the Hell out of him. He'd made arrangements to get the bodies of the other two American fighters released to him. The creepy bastard, he didn't even want to think that name again, had seemed amused at his sentimentality and indulged him by keeping the bodies chilled. When they got off the boat in Hong Kong, the bodies were taking the place of Johnny's luggage. Sonya looked at him with an odd expression. "I'll fix the death certificates," she said finally. "They died in a car crash."
Johnny nodded. "Sounds good."
Liu Kang had remained at the Temple of Light and Johnny hated him for it. The man got the girl, got rid of his grief issues, and got to go back to a normal life. Well, he'd have to do something to shake up the monk. Sidekick's prerogative. He grinned at his thoughts. Back to being the hero. He pulled out his cellphone, which miraculously hadn't been dropped into the water, crushed under a fighting foot, or fried by Rayden's lightening bolts. It was even charged, due to the fact that it had been off for the entire competition. Two weeks in Hell and they'd returned two days after they left. Life just wasn't fair. Johnny sighed. "Linda? It's Johnny. I need to arrange to get two American bodies back to their families. They died over here in a car wreck and I just want to get them home. You'll call Holmes? Great. Should I call the airline or can you do that for me? Thanks, Linda, you're a sweetheart."
"Linda?" Sonya mouthed.
Johnny nodded as he listened to his assistant. "May as well book me back on the same flight. This is going to be a bust out here. Well, there is one possibility, but I don't know what she thinks about movies."
Sonya lifted a threatening fist.
"From the hand gesture I'm getting right now, I'm going to say no way. I did find a kid though. If we can con him into coming to LA I think he could do some stunt work, or some fight coordination. He's good. He's fast. And yes, he's cute. And no, you can't date him."
"Why?" Linda protested automatically. They both knew she'd listen to him without question, but the protest was required. It made him smile.
"Because I've met his girlfriend."
"Damn. Okay, I'll get you booked. Get back to the hotel I put you in originally. I had them hold the room for two weeks. The coffins, well, I don't know. Think you can deal with those yourself?"
"Who taught you your job?" he asked mildly.
"Duh. Okay. See you soon. I'll call. Bye." She hung up on him.
"Ex-girlfriend or little sister?" Sonya asked, amusement tingeing her words and making her seem more human than she ever had before.
"Personal assistant," he answered with a smile. "And yes, she does set up my date reservations."
Sonya stared. "You have a female assistant?"
Johnny nodded. "Why not? She's smart. Besides, I can keep her out of the clutches of the rest of my friends." He shuddered melodramatically. "She's too nice to be dating one of them."
"You vet her dates?" Sonya was laughing now.
"And she checks out mine. You wouldn't make it past the door."
"And why's that? I have a brain?"
"You're blonde. She'll only let me date brunettes or red-heads." Johnny shrugged. "She says the pictures look better that way."
"You choose your dates based on pictures!"
Johnny blinked at her, unable to see the problem. "I'm in all the scandal rags. Of course I choose by pictures. Weren't you going to help me get these boys home?"
"Oh, right. Which hotel are you at?"
Johnny searched his pockets and pulled out a matchbook. He handed it to her. "Here. Just ask the desk about my room number. Tell them you're my fiancťe or something. I've got to make a couple of calls." He fished in the side pocket of his carryon. He'd only brought two bags back with him. There, his address book, the most important thing he owned. He flipped through the pages quickly and found the numbers he needed.
"Tell me again why you want me to come to LA?" Liu Kang said into the phone. He couldn't believe that Johnny Cage was calling him. He thought that Johnny and Sonya would still be snuggled up somewhere. It had only been three months. Even here at the temple he'd had a hard time coming to terms with the contest. Here people understood. He couldnít imagine going back to the states. And now Johnny wanted him in LA?
"Because I've got a new movie opening in a week and we're shooting and I want someone to talk to." The words came out in a rush. "I'll arrange for the flight and everything if you have your passport. You're still clear to come to the states right?"
"Yeah, my visa's good, but what's the real reason you want me out there? Did Sonya leave?"
"Sonya? What does Sonya have to do with anything? Oh, shit, did you think she came to LA with me? I don't date blondes. Give me some credit. Kitana maybe. Sonya? She looks like my sister. And that's just. . . Not done."
"You didn't date Sonya?" Liu blinked. This conversation was getting bizarre.
"Of course not. We'll be friends for awhile until the novelty wears off, but there's just no chemistry. No sparks. No lightening flashes of insight and desire going off in the back of our brains. So, you're coming on the next plane right? I'll get the ticket."
"No, I need to make arrangements. I'll get my own flight and call you when I get in." There was something strange in the way Johnny's voice sounded. The man was desperate.
"Goodbye, Johnny." He hung up. He was going quietly insane here at the Temple. How much worse must it be for Johnny in the middle of the LA life? The man was a chatterbox. Liu's lips twitched up. This could be fun.
Rayden watched Johnny Cage filming. It was always amusing to watch him pulling his punches and not loosing the sharp tongue that resided behind his perfect teeth. "Cut," the director called. "Good. See you tomorrow, Jack."
"Night, Sean." Johnny waved at the director and went to change. His assistant, a pretty little blonde with a French braid was sitting on the stairs of his trailer. "Linda, what's up?"
"Got a call last night from someone called Sonya?"
"Oh, how is she?"
"She said, and I quote, 'tell that airheaded chauvinist, that if he calls me again, I'm going to come to LA and beat him senseless into the sand. Oh, and happy birthday.' endquote."
"Oh, we're getting better. Last time we talked I was a jerk-pig."
"Spicy and tasty? I'll buy that one."
Johnny blushed. Rayden stared. "Hey now," Johnny said mildly.
Linda batted her lashes. "I learned from the best. You also have a call from a Liu Kang. He'll be coming in a week."
"Great. I'll pick him up at the airport."
"No, you will not."
"Because you'll be here, working. I'll go pick him up."
Johnny blinked at her, pouting. A thought seemed to strike him as he moved into the trailer. "He's not a potential SO."
"And I believe you why?"
"Because he's younger than I am and you know I don't go for young."
"Benny," she countered.
"Right. So, I'll pick him up and set him up in a nice hotel."
"He can stay in the guest room."
"Jack." The warning tone in her voice made Rayden smirk. He'd have to remember that. It seemed to shut Johnny down in an instant.
"Okay, okay." The young man sulked into his trailer. Rayden debated giving him some privacy, then smirked. What was the good of being a god if you couldn't indulge yourself. Johnny stripped down and changed. He looked happier in jeans and a button-down shirt. He fussed with his hair for a few minutes, then slipped on his sunglasses. They were replacements for the ones that had been wrecked in the ring. He collected Linda and they were off.
Linda held the sign up as the people streamed by her. There, that had to be him, given Jack's description. There was no way she was calling him Johnny. Not now that she knew that 'Jack' would actually make him listen to her. "I'm Liu Kang. You must be Linda?"
"Damn, did Johnny warn you I was coming? That takes half the fun out of it."
"I wouldn't have gone with anyone with just a sign and he knows it."
"He would. I swear that idiot would get into a car with the Devil himself if he thought it would get him a drink and a tour of the city." She shook her head. "I should have come to Hong Kong with him."
"No," Liu said, shaking his head, "it wouldn't have worked out."
Linda evaluated him as they made their way to the car. Cute, nice, exotic. Those were points in his favor. There was an unusual calm that surrounded him though and Linda didn't like it. Jack needed someone he could fight, not someone who'd just calm him down. Although, maybe that was the attraction. Maybe her little boy was growing up. She smirked to herself. No, he's more of a big brother -- over-protective and overbearing. He had taught her everything she needed to know to make a good career as an assistant. Hell, he'd offered to give her references so she could move up. She just didn't want to. Someone needed to look after Johnny Cage since he couldn't manage his own image.
Liu was a nice guy, if a little strange, she decided as they drove. "So how did you meet Johnny?"
"We were at a competition together. We fought together." Liu shrugged. "How's LA treating him these days?"
She glanced over at him. "You know what happened don't you?" she demanded. "You know why he came back from a two day trip like he'd been on a retreat."
"Maybe. We went to the Temple of Light." Liu shrugged. "I grew up there. It was only two days? It felt a lot longer."
"Maybe he was just tired."
Linda didn't know the right questions to ask. Johnny had neatly side-stepped the issue every time she'd brought it up and Liu seemed to have the same tendency. "What happened at the Temple?"
"A festival. We sparred a little bit. Meditated a little bit."
"He doesn't meditate."
Liu stared at her. "Yes, he does. Every day when he does forms," he added.
"Oh, his workout. Yeah, he's religious about that. Do you know Sonya?"
"Yes, I know Sonya. Is she around?"
"No, she just calls him sometimes. They seem to have something going on, but he swears he wouldn't date her if she were the last woman on earth."
"She'd kick his ass if he made a move on her again. He complimented her on a dress and she nearly took his head off." Liu grinned at some private memory. "Not that he didn't deserve it. He was acting like a spoiled brat."
"He is a spoiled brat most of the time. It's the lifestyle out here." Linda shook her head.
"Don't worry. If he turns into an idiot call me and I'll smack him down for you. So, why did you decide to come visit?"
"Johnny called me. He sounded lonely. And my girlfriend went back to her own country," he added after a pause. "There didn't seem to be a reason not to come for a visit. When we first talked he said that he'd pick me up. Then, he called back and said he'd been threatened with castration if he went to the airport, so you'd be coming."
She fixed her most innocent face in place. "He needs to finish shooting today. There's a wrap party at three, if they're lucky. He couldn't miss that."
"Right. Don't pull that face on me. You picked it up from him."
"Well, yes, I did, but it's all for the best. You two'd never get out of the airport alive. Scandal rags or not, everyone knows him and he just can't not shine. It's who he is." Liu smiled at her. "Yeah, I know."
"Liu Kang," Johnny mocked Rayden's inflection lightly. Liu couldn't help but grin.
"Johnny Cage," he replied in the same tones.
"Welcome to LA. Shooting's done. Premiere for the one I was working on before is going to be next week. That means I've got a week to show you around town with no strings. At least none that I know of." He looked to Linda. The young woman shook her head.
"And Linda will play chaperone, right? I wouldn't want to get in trouble."
"What exactly has she been telling you?" Johnny demanded, eyes narrowed in her direction. She looked at him innocently, but he didn't seem to be buying it. "Whatever it was, you might want to take it with a gulp of salt."
"Would I make you look bad?" She pouted charmingly and Liu was enchanted.
"You wound me. You really do."
"Maybe I should."
"You'd never hit a lady."
"Well, I don't see one here do you?" he snapped back. It was obviously a well-worn routine between them. She punched him in the shoulder. It wasn't a pulled punch. Liu winced. That was going to bruise. "Evil, evil woman."
"I think I'm going to get Sonya out here. Sounded like she'd put you in your place for me."
Liu snickered. "I wouldn't do that. She'd just shoot him. What's first on the list?"
"Get you out of the hotel and into the guest room at my condo," Johnny replied. "I've fixed up a better work-out space than you'll find wherever she's put you."
"No," Linda said firmly. Liu was aware of a subtle undercurrent he couldn't understand between the two of them.
"Christ, Linda, give me some credit."
"He's not staying with you and you aren't staying with him."
"I have another guest room besides yours, you know."
"I know. He's not staying there."
Johnny glared at the young woman. "He is staying there. I'm not going to stick him in some hotel room just because you seem to think I have no morals. Or is it because you do want to date him despite my thoughts on the matter?"
They stared at each other, looking more and more like brother and sister. Liu's lips twitched. "Thank you for the offer of hospitality, Johnny, but I can stay in the hotel. It's not a problem. You don't have to stay with me every second of the day."
"Did you put him in a suite or a single room?"
"I didn't know how long he'd be staying."
"How long can you stay?"
"As long as you need me here."
There was gratitude in Johnny's eyes and his smile seemed easier. "Great. He really should set up in the guest room, Linda. It'll be awhile."
The young woman glared for a moment longer, then softened. "Okay. I'll get his things taken to the condo. You've got a tour to give. Don't keep him out too late, okay?"
"I'll be good. And I won't even hit another paparazzi without your permission."
"Good. I want to see it next time. And I'll make dinner reservations for you. And you have a date with Cindy."
Johnny looked blankly at her. Liu smothered a laugh. "Cindy?"
Linda's smirk made Liu step back a pace. "Cindy. You remember her. Red hair piled on top of her head. Shiny white teeth."
"Teeth like a horse and a tapeworm?" Johnny said, eyes wide. "What did I do to deserve her? She's evil. She's a Baptist too. She boycotts my movies because of the violence!"
"I told her you were thinking of going mainstream."
"You are pure evil."
"But I'm cute. Go, off with you. I'll call you with the details. And I'm taking Liu to dinner."
Liu put a companionable arm around Johnny's shoulder. "Just admit defeat and show me the sights." Johnny sighed and they were off. Liu winked at Linda. She laughed as they left.
Johnny calling Liu to LA was not something Rayden had predicted. From what he knew from watching Johnny was that he was actually intensely private. For him to call someone from across the world because he was bored was, to be honest, perfectly in keeping with his self-centered arrogance. I'm bored so I'm going to call a playmate. Rayden glowered. Time to remind Liu Kang of the facts of life.
The rain shower caught both men unawares. Johnny glared up at the sky. "You did that on purpose," he stated as the rain soaked through his shirt. Liu grabbed Johnny's arm.
"The condo is that way right?"
"Yeah. Come on, I'll race you." And with that they were running like a couple of little boys. They collapsed, laughing against the wall of the elevator. "Thanks for coming, Liu. Just in case I forget to say it. Movie and pizza?"
"Sounds good. What movie?"
"Never seen it."
"Oh, I think it'll amuse you." Johnny smirked. Rayden considered frying the power system in Johnny's apartment. No, then the man would just go to a hotel and do the same thing. The rain sped up, slashing at the windows. Johnny looked out with a frown.
"Frozen pizza, I think."
"You can cook?" Liu teased.
"I can feed myself for a few days. Then, I give up and let other people cook for me again. Why don't we get into some dry clothes? Linda would crucify me if I let you get sick. Or if I get sick this close to an opening." Rayden smirked. Johnny usually just let the clothes dry on his back if he got soaked on the beach. He followed the young man's progress into the bedroom. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you didn't like my choice in movies." The comment was muttered in such an off-hand way that Rayden almost didn't realize that it was aimed at him. The actor had taken to talking to him. Most people seemed to assume he was talking to his God. And Rayden wanted that. He wanted to be Johnny's God and teach him to worship. He wanted to take the Catholic raised Johnny and teach him the whys and wherefores of the gods that ruled this realm. He wanted to teach him worship with his whole being, not just speak absently into the air. "And I think you have it in for my hair. You're going to turn it into straw. My stylist is getting pissed. He told me that the next time I go walking in the rain he's going to lock me up. Personally, I think he's just flirting, don't you?"
Johnny was naked, toweling himself off. It was wonderful to watch. There were a few scars here and there from accidents and surgeries. And there was even a little tattoo of a lightening bolt on his hip. It was fairly new. Rayden had watched him get it and still couldn't understand the reasoning. No one would see it where it was unless they were a lover. Even the most revealing swimsuit covered it. The young man dressed in workout clothes. Rayden sighed. The actor even wore clothes to bed. It was too bad.
"So," Liu said after the pizza was baked and the movie was in the VCR, "why this movie?"
"Watch and see." Johnny grinned at Liu. They sat next to each other on the couch. They were too comfortable with one another to keep space between them. And, Rayden admitted ruefully, they were probably a little cold. "Pizza, pop, and swordfights. What else could make this evening complete?"
"I don't know. Ice cream maybe?"
"Got that too," Johnny grinned. "Now, watch. Then, we can find something else to watch."
Rayden shook his head. The man was such a brat. He watched them as they watched movies late into the night. He scowled when Liu fell asleep on Johnny's shoulder. Lightening crackled and thunder rolled waking Liu up instantly. "Bedtime I think," Johnny said cheerfully. He grabbed Liu's hand and led him to the guest room. "Go, sleep." Rayden shared Johnny's chuckle as Liu tripped into his bed and passed out. Johnny shut down. He stretched, then went to his own bed. "I feel like a teenager," he muttered into the pillow. Then, an instant later, he was asleep.
Linda shook her head as Johnny once again tried to tie the bow-tie on his own. He scowled at her. "This is impossible."
"Let me do it." She neatened up the bow and smoothed his collar down. "There, much better. Are you picking up Tricia?"
"Tricia is going with her husband and you know it."
"Then who are you taking? Liu?"
"I thought I was taking you. Isn't that what you said?" He looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. She glared at him.
"I have nothing to wear."
"Check your bedroom."
"Check my bedroom? What did the wardrobe fairy magically introduce a new formal gown into it?"
"Yes." Johnny smirked at her. She punched his shoulder. "If you're going to hit me, do it right." She hit him harder. "That's better. You can't claim I never taught you to fight. Now, go on. Tell me if you need help. Or would you rather Liu did it?"
"No." She felt herself blushing. "You are such a bastard, Johnny."
"That's why you love me. Go on. I think I got everything you'll need."
"And how do you know my dress size?"
More than likely he'd just checked her other dresses because he was nosy, not observant. She stared in wonder at the dress. It was the color of a stormy ocean with a delicately embroidered bodice of flowers. It had a reasonable a-line skirt and ribbon straps that looked more delicate than they were. It was perfect. She looked down to find the matching shoes. There was jewelry on the table along with a small purse with matching flowers. "Johnny, I'll need help with this," she called. She checked the bodice. Yes, a built in bra. Thank God. She had it most of the way on when he poked his head in. Neither of them had any body-consciousness. They'd both been in the business since they were teens. He did up the back for her. "I don't have time to do much to my hair."
"Let me do it while you work on your make-up." He pulled her hair up into a simple French twist, leaving a few strands to either side of her face. He put in crystal tipped bobby-pins as she put on her eye-shadow. Liu peered in.
"Does she like it?" he asked.
"Yes, she does," Linda answered. "You were in on this?"
"He forced me to pick out shoes to match it. I'd never been into a woman's shoe store before. It was terrifying. Make sure he pays for that."
"Don't worry, you did and excellent job." Linda smoothed the thigh highs up her legs. She missed the dry-mouthed gape as Liu watched her. She heard him leave and looked up. "Jack?"
"What's up with Liu?"
"He's not used to beautiful women." Johnny draped the necklace around her neck. He handed her the earrings, then fastened on the bracelet. There was something to be said for having a theatre background. Both of them were used to quick changes. She stood up and slipped on her shoes. "I tried to convince him to come, but he said no."
"Don't pout. He probably just needs a day off. The two of you have been running like crazy and the press has been enjoying it to no end."
"I know. Gave them something to talk about rather than me being a fake. Seems someone caught us sparring on camera." Johnny winked at her.
"Manipulative. I approve. And I bet they know he's from China too."
"Yes." He grinned at her. "Ready?"
"Let me just get my ID into my bag." They were on the way a few minutes later. The limo was black and understated. Linda played with the streamer by her left ear. "I hate this part of it."
"Yes. Are you and Liu, you know, good friends?"
Johnny shrugged. "We're close. We went through some serious stuff together. So, I guess so. Of course, he thinks Iím his side-kick, so there's something strange about it, but hey, can't have everything."
"Long story." He grinned at her. "We're almost there. You have cue cards for me or am I on my own?"
"You are on your own. Just be yourself."
"I don't think they're ready for that."
"Probably not." She smiled at him. "Showtime.
Liu leaned back and put his feet up on the coffeetable. Finally, the tension was gone. Johnny and Linda weren't sniping at each other. Well, maybe they were, but he couldn't hear it. It was ten times worse than hearing Sonya and Johnny go at each other. There didn't seem to be any actual reason for them to snipe at one another. They just liked it. And Linda, well, she looked, he stumbled to a stop in his thoughts arrested by the image of her rolling the stocking up her leg. Johnny had mentioned once that watching someone get dressed could be as interesting as watching them get undressed, but Liu had ignored him. Now, he was beginning to understand the idea. He shook his head. No, Johnny would kill him if he touched Linda. He had the protective older brother part down pat.
Liu flipped on the television, suddenly the quiet was too much. He needed noise. He settled on to the local news station. He was startled to see the premier featured. It was only a short piece, but it was enough. Linda looked perfect next to Johnny and both of them seemed to know it. They were holding hands and Liu smiled. He threw his fantasies to the back of his mind. At least they were happy. He changed the stations until he found a mindless sitcom. He'd been out of the states too long. He needed to reconnect with the world. Johnny was right, hiding and licking his wounds after Kitana left was useless. He needed to live a little more. The Temple was home, but he wasn't sure if that's where he belonged anymore. He whispered a soft prayer to Lord Rayden.
Johnny smiled for the cameras, Linda finding her marks next to him like the pro she was. It was comfortable. The press would eat it up too. He never went to a premier with the same woman twice, except for Linda. It was a good way to divert them. Maybe there'd be an earthquake soon to distract them, he thought rather petulantly. He answered the questions with his usual calm. By the time they met up with Tricia Powell, his leading lady through four films, he wanted to scream. They settled down in the back row. Linda held his hand as they sat, watching the full movie for the first time. So much had happened that Johnny'd forgotten the corny dialog. He laughed outright at places. Tricia grinned at him. "Score, partner," she whispered into his ear. He nodded with an answering smile. Their movies tended to be on the lighter side. The fight scenes were serious, but that was about it. There was no room in their world for too much seriousness. Johnny looked up, wonder what you think. He didn't say it aloud.
Linda's hand tightened. "Signature sequence," she muttered. "You need to break him out of that rut."
Johnny nodded. The choreographer had a few fall back sequences. Everyone who worked on his movies knew them by heart. They usually were just warm ups though. He wasn't sure why this one made it into the movie. Then, he remembered: cheap idiot stunt-fighters who couldn't remember their lines or their choreography. They'd just shot the scene in desperation with all the regulars. It was the best fight scene in the movie. Tricia tugged on his hair and he turned to face her. His eyes adjusted to the low lights. "Who is that boy you've been running around with?" she mouthed.
"Liu Kang. I met him in China," he mouthed back. "I'll tell you at the party."
She nodded and patted his arm. Linda looked a question at him and he shook his head. What was it about him and collecting sisters?
"I hate parties," Johnny muttered into Linda's ear. Rayden watched, laughing to himself, as Johnny greeted another one of the hundreds of people at the party. He was clinging to Linda like a life-line. For a moment, Rayden wished it were him there instead. Then, he saw another sallow, pompous ass come forward to offer congratulations and other pandering talk and the wish died. This is why the boy had the nerve to face down Shang Tsung in order to get his friends' bodies returned. It was also in part why the sorcerer had wanted to face the young man. Johnny deftly deflected another agent and turned to his assistant. "I need a drink. How about you?"
"You go on. I know Tricia wants to corner you. I'll go find Carlos and find out if he's still dating Lupino."
"He was dating that?"
"Yes, he was."
"I know that, you know that. I just want to find out if he's in his right mind yet. If he's still dating her, you aren't working with him." Linda patted his arm. "And don't be mean to Tricia."
"She wouldn't know how to deal with me if I were nice." He left her to find his leading lady. Rayden liked her. She was smart and fast. She and Johnny's fighting styles complemented each other. There she was, hiding in the corner so that no one would see that she'd taken off her heels. "Hello, gorgeous."
Johnny sighed. "What did I do this time?"
"You've been running around town with a new beau and not introduced me."
"He's just a friend."
"Who actually hugs you and touches you? I didn't know you had any of those besides Linda and she doesn't count."
Johnny blinked. "Linda obviously hasn't been giving me all of the articles."
"I have my own sources."
"Got it in one. Thanks for breaking him in for me. Linda's trained him well."
"You're welcome. Liu's just a friend. Honestly. Cute, but just a friend. Have I been that much of a recluse?"
"You haven't had a date in six months." Johnny rolled his eyes. "And don't give me that. You know what I mean. A real date, not a torture devised by the devious and underhanded Linda. You don't deserve her. I'm hiring her from you."
"Don't let Joey hear you say that or there'll be a bitchfight."
"No cursing in public. Ruins the image."
"I was thinking of going with bad boy as opposed to gentleman."
"There's too many of those out there. So, where did you meet him? How did you get him here? How long is he staying? Why haven't I met him? And when are you going to draw him into the dark side and get him into movies?" Rayden laughed at her interrogation technique.
"Hong Kong. Phone call. Until he decides to leave. He's only been here a week. Whenever I think I can broach the subject without getting smacked or laughed out of the room." Johnny was used to this type of conversation. "Why do I have to introduce you to him anyway?"
"Because Iím your partner in crime and I know best. So, he's a good friend?"
Johnny smiled. It lit up his eyes. "Yeah. His girlfriend left him and he was moping, so I wheedled until he came to LA."
"And paid for the ticket?"
"I tried to, but he's stubborn. He's staying in my guest room."
"Not Linda's room?"
"Not yet." Johnny's answer was absent. "Incoming." He turned and smiled. "Well if it isn't Cassie. I didn't realize you crawled out of your crypt for things like this." Cassie was very pale, her hair dark black. She was starring in a series of low-budget vampire flicks. She was a good fighter though and that's all that really mattered. Rayden had been watching long enough to know that. She worked out at the same small dojo as the other good fighters in the crowd. It was an elite place owned by an anonymous man who made the final call on who was allowed to be there by a video audition and references.
"If I told you I don't bite, would you believe me?" She batted her lashes. Johnny laughed. It was a bright sound and Rayden hungered for more of it. "Really, someone told me you finally hooked up."
"You're the top of the list of people I know are going to settle down. So, who's the mystery kid?"
"Oh, you mean Liu? It'd never work. He's a monk. He's a fighter though. You might like him."
Cassie grinned. "Oh, you don't get off that easily. I saw you two running in from the beach the other night. Got caught in the rainstorm?"
"Exactly. He'd never seen Highlander though, so I figured I'd better show it to him before I introduced him to any of you reprobates."
"I'm not that bad," Tricia complained.
"You are the only reason I've seen all of the movies and the series. It's twisted. And you have a crush on McLeod. Admit it," Johnny pressed.
"Pot this is kettle," Cassie intoned. "Actually, besides grilling you, I came over here to tell you that Linda is trapped by Midori and won't be getting out any time soon."
"Midori? Dang. Sure you couldn't bite her for me?"
"Midori? I'd never get the taste out of my mouth. Oh, look, here comes trouble."
"Is this where the normal people are meeting?" Martin asked. There was desperation in his eyes. "They're driving me crazy."
"If you think we're normal, you're welcome to join us," Cassie said. She took his arm. He was playing the head bad guy in this movie. He was very close to making it to good guy in the next movie. He'd probably end up as a partner to the good guy. Linda strode across the room purposefully.
"Okay, I need someone to stand in the warpath while I sneak away," Johnny said, pulling at his tie. "I don't know what's wrong and I don't want to find out." Tricia pinned him in place by taking his arm. He wouldn't shake her off. He was too much of a gentleman.
"Cassie, you are a dead woman." Linda paused. "Or more dead at least. You left me with Midori. I had to very indelicately tell her that if she didn't let me go I was going to rip her arm off and beat her with it. I'm blaming PMS if anyone asks. Martin, sweetheart, you were excellent. I loved the final climax when you jumped off the railing."
"That one did work out well. I thought I was going to die, but I had a good landing pad." He nodded in Johnny's direction. Thunder rumbled. Johnny glanced towards the door in confusion.
"Did we have a storm coming in tonight?"
"Not that I know of. But we've been having weird weather for three months now," Cassie said. "It's been playing havoc with the shooting schedule. Linda, Johnny was just telling us about his new boy-toy."
"His new boy-toy? I think not. I'm claiming him. And if he crosses me Jack'll be dating a Mormon."
"I know where you sleep, girl," Johnny warned. She smirked at him. "Where did your husband sneak off to, Trish?"
"The bar. I think they had the game playing in an upstairs room for the unattached men. We'll see him later."
"Then why the Hell am I still here?" Johnny asked.
"Because you don't watch sports," Linda said firmly. "Martin, tell me, did you agree to take on Steven's new piece?"
"No. I can't stand the man."
"Really. He said you were finally going to play the sidekick."
"Steven's sidekick? In his dreams. No way. Sean said I get to play an actual cop in the next shoot and I'm not going to let him back off on it."
"As in a not crooked cop?" Tricia asked with a grin. "Does that mean I'll be the plucky girl hostage?"
Linda giggled. "Okay, we all need to get out of the corner and into the party. Move it." She herded the group back into the thick of things. Rayden wondered again if Johnny knew just how much she did for his career. Watching the careful way he escorted her, he decided that he did. The actor looked delectable in a tux. He needed to wear it more often.
"Come on, Liu, time to wake up. And don't tell me you're a night owl because I know exactly what time you used to get up at the temple. Or were you having a party last night? Linda's here. We're going to the dojo and you're coming with us. If you like it, we'll get you an audition with the owner and see if he'll let you join. I'm sure he will. You're poetry in motion. Come on."
Liu rubbed his eyes. The only thing he could think was better not let Lord Rayden hear you talk like that. He'd been told once, in no uncertain terms by the god that Johnny was off limits. Off limits to everyone. But he couldn't remember when he'd been told that. Or where he'd been told. His head felt like a marching band was practicing.
"Don't tell me you're a drinker. You haven't had more than one beer for the entire week. I don't see any bottles. Liu what's wrong, buddy?" Johnny was checking his pulse now and looking for injuries.
"Late night. Lemme sleep."
"Liu, it's one in the afternoon. I've let you sleep all day. You're starting to worry us. I'm going to take you to the emergency room. I think you have a concussion or something."
"No. No, I'm fine." Liu sat up. He rubbed at his eyes. "Go on. Work out. I'll be fine when you get back. I'll get some food and a shower." Johnny looked more freaked than he had been during the tournament. "Honestly, Johnny, I'll be okay. Linda has your cellphone on speed-dial for me. I'll be fine."
"You better be. We'll be back in about an hour and a half. We'll probably have someone with us, so if you're really feeling as bad as you look right now, get to bed and take some aspirin. Last thing I need is a man with a destiny dying on my couch, okay?"
"But in your bed's okay?"
"Only if that's where I tell him to be. Get some sleep on a bed as opposed to this couch. And if you aren't better by the time we get back, I'm taking you to the emergency room and the only way to stop me will be to kick my ass. Got it?"
Liu nodded and then winced. That was a bad decision. His head hurt like Hell. He heard low voices and the quiet click of the front door. Liu dragged himself to the kitchen for some juice, then to the bathroom. A warm shower eased most of the pain. He swallowed two aspirin and laid down. Maybe he'd be ready to face the world when Johnny got home.
"Johnny Cage, you are ignoring me," Cassie said impatiently. The blond blinked at her. Then he smile. It was a reflex action and she knew it. See angry woman: smile and tell her she's beautiful.
"Cassie. You look much better in red."
Bingo, called that one. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She watched him reviewing the past few days. "You are ignoring me. What's wrong?"
"I think Liu has a concussion, but I couldn't find any damage and he didn't say he'd fallen down. I just worry. He lost his brother and his girlfriend. I don't think he's a drinker, but this is LA and he could find practically anything." He was sulking now, which was actually a good sign. It meant he was telling the truth. He never sulked when he was lying.
"Come on, a quick workout with staffs and we'll call it quits okay?"
"I'm not going easy on you, so quit the little boy eyes." He gave her a mocking salute with his staff and swung at her head. "Oooh, I like it rough you know."
"Of course, darling, I wouldn't have it any other way."
The obligatory smart-ass comments out of the way they started fighting. It took them the better part of thirty minutes to realize that the rest of the dojo had moved to the sidelines to watch them and lay wagers. It took another ten before they started to care. Five minutes later they called a truce. "Pax. That's good enough. Now, you had a roommate to introduce me to, didn't you?" She gave him her widest smile. She heard a couple of coughs and a muttered whisper.
"That was a low and cruel thing to do to me, Cass, and I'll make sure you pay for it."
"I'm not stupid enough to leave the opening." She danced away from his half-hearted swipe. She tossed him her staff and headed for the showers. "Oh, and Johnny, I want to know *all* about how you met him! I mean not even a week and he's moved in? Really."
"You are dead, Cassie. You just don't know it yet. I'm gonna make it slow and nasty."
There was a murmur of laughter. She knew Johnny was taking their bows, making excuses, and bickering with Linda by now. She just wanted a hot shower to keep her shoulder from tensing up. He'd gotten better in the past month and she wanted to know how.
Johnny knocked carefully on the doorframe. "Liu," he called.
"I'm awake," Liu answered with a growl. "I don't want to be, but I am."
Johnny walked over to the bed. "Tell me what it feels like."
"Like I got kicked in the head."
"Let me check and make sure there's no swelling or bleeding."
"Johnny, I'll be fine."
"Don't pull that shit with me. You're not fine. If you were fine, you'd be bitching at me for not having ice cream in the freezer. Let me check your head." Liu sat up with a grimace. Johnny checked his skull gently, knowing that he couldn't trust his eyes. The black hair would hide any blood. Liu's eyes closed. "Well, no lumps I can feel. No blood. And you didn't jerk away, so I'm guessing there was no pain. Let's see your eyes."
"It's just a headache."
"Did you get lunch while I was out?"
"Then come to the kitchen and eat something. We'll get you some water. And if you look pathetic enough the women won't dissect you."
"Great motivational speeches from you. Complaining Outworld looked like high school. Telling me to get off my ass and come to LA as opposed to brooding. You need to work on the perky side-kick role."
"I am not perky. I'm snarky and sarcastic. Deal with it. You want perky, kidnap Sonya and feed her uppers."
Liu managed a small smile. He stood wavering for a moment. He took the offered supportive arm and Johnny took him into the kitchen to meet Cass and Linda for lunch. "Hi, I'm Liu Kang."
"Cassie Billings. I live downstairs."
"So you do have neighbors."
"I also have good soundproofing so you don't hear her screaming all night."
"It's called practice. Some of us are on the nightshift," Cassie protested. "It's vampire work."
"And some of us try to sleep at night, Mistress of the Dark."
"If you're sleeping at night, you need a fuck-buddy. Well, now that we've given you a memorable first impression, what do you say?"
"A pleasure to meet you. I thought Linda was the only one who talked to him like that."
"Oh, there's a few of us," Cassie soothed. Linda smirked at the comment. Johnny smacked the back of her head gently. "How's your head?"
"Want to check his eyes for me while I get him some lunch?"
"I'm fine, Johnny. You're being over-protective."
"Someone has to be. Eggs?"
"Can you cook them properly?"
Cassie leaned checked Liu's eyes. "Pupils look okay, but I'd take it easy for awhile. Did you hit your head at all this week?"
"Only when I misjudged the distance between my body and Johnny's reach." The younger man's voice was dry.
"I pulled that," the actor responded. "Toast?"
"You actually hit him? You're better than that," Cass said sharply.
"We got distracted."
"By what?" Cassie's voice had fallen into her "vampire mistress hiss."
"What we were discussing." Johnny closed the conversation. He knew he'd have to lie later and coach Liu on the details, but for now Cass would let it go.
"So tell me about yourself. How did you manage to turn Johnny's head?"
Liu's eyes got impossibly large. Linda smothered a laugh. Johnny turned, pan still in his hand to protest. "He hasn't turned my head. It's not like that, Cass!"
"Me and Johnny? Never happen."
"Why not?" Cassie was really shocked. Linda'd never seen that expression on her face before. It was all she could do not to laugh.
"Well, you just don't screw your sidekick," Liu teased. Johnny glared at him. "Hey, you claim sidekick prerogative when you do things I don't want. Only fair." The actor just turned back to the stove.
"Sidekick?" Cassie's brows rose. "When did you meet him anyway? You're too young for high school."
"I met him in Hong Kong a few months ago."
Linda's attention sharpened. It was the trip that Johnny refused to talk about. Something had happened there besides losing two friends. He'd met Sonya there and now it seemed Liu. And they were good friends. They were kind of friends who'd die for each other. Just like she and Johnny were.
"And you're staying in the guest room."
"It's just not practical to put an out of town guest in a hotel, Cass. I've got the room and Liu's a good guy."
"But really, you aren't interested at all?"
"Listen, I don't know why everyone has this idea that I'm after Johnny, but he's just a friend."
"Everybody?" Linda's tried to make it a teasing question.
"I've had more than a few comments over the past week from people we've run into. Even Linda asked. Come on, Johnny, you've got to have friends? Family?"
"Actually, Linda's my only family."
Cass blinked at her and Linda winked. "Oh, holy shit, you really are his sister aren't you?"
"Cousin." Linda grinned. "He's two years older. And he's got a much bigger mouth. Of course, everyone seems to think his my husband, so we just go with it."
"Cage is a stage name." Cass buried her face in her hands. "I've known you two for five years and you didn't tell me?"
"Well, when I met you, you were the stunt double for the woman who will not be named," Johnny pointed out. "You were living in each others pockets and she had it in for me."
"She adored you."
"She hated me. She thought you could get to me. She was starting rumors all over the place about date rape and other horrible things. I nearly. . . nevermind," he broke off shooting a glance at Liu.
"I'm still not getting why everyone's asking about my intentions towards Johnny. It's like you think he's gay."
Cass started giggling. Linda felt herself falling into it too. Johnny set the plate in front of Liu and shook his head. "Buddy, you have got to wake up to what's in front of your eyes. If you think Cass, who's been sweetness and light to you, is bad, wait until you face Martin. Or one of my exes. Then, you can worry. But if you want to shut them up, ask Linda out and make sure you do it in front of everyone."
That made Linda laugh harder. She would never have guessed that Liu was so dense.
"Hey, you were the one that threatened to chop me into fish food if I made a move on her!" Johnny grinned. It was a nasty little grin that Linda recognized from when he'd played bad guys. "That's just wrong, Johnny. Disturbingly wrong."
Johnny patted Liu on the head. "You'll figure everything out soon enough."
Once the ladies were gone to do whatever they do while their out, Liu glared at his friend. "Are you serious about letting me date Linda or should I make sure I keep my hands to myself?"
"Thought so. You're an asshole."
"So tell me, why didn't you and Sonya hit it off?"
"Sonya was never interested in me."
"You challenged Goro for her."
"No, I challenged Goro because he killed one of my friends and I never wanted to see that happen again. Sonya was up on the roster to face him and I knew she couldn't do it. End of story." Johnny shrugged. Rayden smirked. Johnny was the only champion he'd ever had that actually understood that Mortal Kombat was his to manipulate. Liu had been caught up in his grief, Sonya her revenge. Johnny had gone in with a clear head. He'd been Rayden's main plan. He'd even have let the man face the sorcerer, if he'd thought Liu wasn't ready. He might not even have had to mourn him. He hadn't wanted to take the chance though. Even if he'd lost the realm, he'd have been able to take Johnny Cage and no mere sorcerer could prevent that. "So, now that's out of the way, I really don't think I should throw you into middle of the sharks at the dojo. They'd eat you alive. Don't you know how to lie?"
"What would I lie about?"
"How we met. Does not talking about the competition strike a bell with you? Or do you need a lightening bolt to remind you. I'm sure if you say anything Rayden will be pleased to remind you about how we're not supposed to do that? Do you know how many lies I had to tell and bribes I had to pay to get those bodies to the states? Sonya and I have been lying to everyone since we got back. Hell, half of the idiots I deal with were sure I got into the middle of some drug war and had to high-tail it out of Hong Kong. And believe me, Liu, I was not happy to find out that I wouldn't be able to network while I was there. There's a lot of good shit coming out of Hong Kong and damn it, I wanted to get in with the directors before they met a lot of lazy, sloppy American fighters."
Johnny was angry and Rayden could practically smell it. All the little hurts and secrets in his life were nothing compared to not being able to further his career. The thunder god laughed. What am I going to do with you Johnny Cage? He wondered at the possibility of actually having Johnny not just forcing other people away from him. Johnny was his, but he hadn't told him that yet. He thought about the tattoo then and smiled.
"Linda, please, you have to be kind to him. He's like a puppy that doesn't know any better."
"He's an idiot, Johnny. He can't see what's right in front of his face."
"That's what I like about him. He can't lie worth a damn."
"This is LA. Lying is a survival trait. You know they'll destroy him."
"I know that. I also know that he was trying to hide in a fucking monastery because his girlfriend left him. I know that he's been ignoring the fact that his brother was murdered. He hasn't dealt with that at all. He's feeling guilty for still being alive and I don't want him molding in some corner of the world. He's too good for that. I'm not going to get him into movies. I'm going to make him teach!"
"Community college. He's got the intelligence and he's got the right moves. They're always looking for a good martial arts instructor because they keep leaving and setting up their own place. They've been after me for years. It's perfect. He doesn't have to lie. He just has to keep the religious part tamped down and I'm sure he can handle that."
"Religious? He really is a monk?"
"He is. He grew up in a monastery. So did his brother. He left to travel the world and his brother was murdered while he was away. So, yes, religious."
"He worships, well, at least Rayden, maybe another deity or two. I didn't really listen too closely. I have enough trouble dealing with one god at a time."
Linda thought for a long moment. "Rayden?"
"God of thunder," Johnny explained.
"The same Rayden you curse when the rain catches you outdoors?" Linda smirked.
"Hey, he's got a name. May as well use it." He shrugged and Linda's attention grew tight.
"What aren't you telling me?"
"I can't, Linda. I gave my word. I can't even tell you."
She sighed. "Okay, I'll drop it. You really think he'll enjoy teaching?"
"He's been teaching for years. He'll be a natural."
"If you're sure, I'll start the paperwork. He'll need a green card. We're sponsoring him, I assume."
"If you're willing?"
Johnny smiled full out and Linda melted. He'd always been able to do that. It was just so damn rare to see him happy that she'd forgotten that. He sobered. "Linda, about this random dating sequence you've got me on, maybe we should just taper it off?"
"And have everyone think you're going out with Liu? I don't think so."
"How about you? We've been playing the possible husband, wife angle for years."
"No one will buy it. They'll assume I'm your sister again. Sorry, it's the random dating scene or coming out and then dating."
Johnny sighed. He rubbed at his temple. "Dating it is, I guess. Honestly, you're sure none of the rags are proclaiming that I should be the next gay rights activist in the city?" His rolled eyes told her exactly what he thought of that little idea.
"No. Everyone assumes that Liu's one of your teachers, or a student of your teacher. Or that you brought him over from China to start working in the industry." Linda pinched his cheek. "You're just too much of a flirt. All those girls seem to think that they'll eventually be the one."
"I'm going to call Sonya and have her come shoot me. That will give me an excuse to stay away from women for awhile. I'm just bored."
Linda considered. "Don't worry, I have a plan. I'm going to get you some more active dates. The dinner and movies thing is boring. If you're doing something maybe you'll enjoy it more."
"Okay. We'll give it a try. Better make the first one with Cass though because we both know I don't like to go in unrehearsed.
Cass showed up at the front door in jeans and a tee-shirt, her black hair pulled back, her make-up gentle for once. "Get your blades, Johnny, we're heading out."
"Blades? Do we have to?"
"Don't whine." Liu was watching them from the couch. He laughed at Johnny's pouting. Linda grinned.
"Johnny," Linda said, a chiding tone in her voice. "You're the one who wanted a rehearsal. Come on, Liu, let's go for a walk while these two skate the boardwalk."
"How about we all walk," Johnny offered. "We can even call it a double-date." Liu took Johnny's offered hand to stand up. Liu offered Linda his hand, but she laughed.
"You are such a brat, Johnny." Linda got up gracefully. "Let me pull my hair back and get my shades."
The beach was wonderful and Liu relaxed. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. A kite in the shape of a thunderbolt caught his attention and he reached for Johnny's arm. He pointed out the kite and they shared a grin. Cass watched with a little frown. "You're sure you two aren't an item?"
"I don't know where you're getting that idea," Liu stated.
Johnny smirked at Liu. "Really? You're the one that's been hugging me, grabbing my arm, keeping in contact. I mean, I knew you didn't have any personal space issues. But lately, I have to wonder. There you go, staring into my eyes." The actor leaned forward. "It's easy to get the wrong impression."
Lightening struck the ground between them making Liu jump back.
"You're not here, why do you care? Why don't you come down here and tell me what you want, Mr. Won't Give a Proper Kiss?" Johnny glared at the heavens.
There was another flash. Rayden stalked towards the young man. Johnny held his ground. They glared at each other for a long moment. "You were trying to make me angry weren't you?" Rayden snapped.
"Me? Would I do that? Did it work?"
The god seethed. He caught Johnny's chin, then kissed him. There was nothing sweet about it. Harsh, claiming, it left Johnny panting, eyes dazed. "Yes."
Linda stared. "Oh, God, that's why you wanted to quit dating."
"We'll see you at the apartment," Johnny said calmly. "I think there's something we need to discuss." Rayden kissed him again, just to shut him up. They were gone in a flash.
When Johnny opened his eyes and saw the familiar room, he had to laugh. "My office suite?"
"There's a perfectly useful bed in the other room. Do you want to talk?"
"Well, I don't know." Rayden kissed him. Johnny's cock hardened. "No." Rayden dropped a hand to settle over where the tattoo was settled. "So you saw?"
"I saw. You know you're mine. I know you're mine. Let's get to that bed and prove it." Johnny pulled off his tee-shirt as he headed for the bed. Rayden stepped up behind him, catching his hands as he worked at his pants. "Let me." Johnny leaned back into the god's warmth. His head leaned back to rest on Rayden's shoulder as the god's fingers quickly loosed his jeans. There was nothing underneath them. Rayden's touch was surprisingly gentle, his fingers warm and soft. He laid a soft kiss to the side of Johnny's bared neck before he bit down. Johnny gasped.
The actor turned. He slid his hands under his lover's shirt and lifted it up and away. Moments later they were both naked. "Finally," Johnny murmured as he ran his hands up the muscled torso. "How did I get you to come down? I have to remember for next time."
Rayden laughed. "Next time, just say something. You're the most closed mouth worshipper."
"I don't worship you."
"Don't you? You've marked yourself for me. You love me?" It was almost hesitant and Johnny smiled.
"Yes, I do."
"You worship me with your body, with your words, with your anger. You're a spitfire, Johnny Cage. Or should I say Carlton?"
"John Carlton's dead," Johnny replied. "Long live Johnny Cage."
"Oh, you will. I'll see to that." Rayden kissed him then. It was as harsh and hot as any kiss Johnny'd ever experienced. He moaned into it. He didn't remember being moved to the bed, only that the comforter was soft and cool against his over-heated skin. Rayden's mouth was moist and warm as it moved down the mortal's chest. He licked the small lightening bolt tattoo and Johnny whimpered a bit.
"Oh, God. Rayden, please, it's been too long for teasing."
One of the squared off fingers rested over Johnny's lips, quieting him. Johnny licked it, suckled the tip of it. He was rewarded by the sharp intake of breath. Rayden was playing with him then, stretching, soothing, lubing. Johnny raised a brow in question, but was perfectly content to feel the sparks of power tickle his tongue as he teased the gentle finger his lips had access to. His hand stroked his cock without conscious thought. It just felt too good, too real, too intense, too everything to think.
Rayden pressed his cock into the tight space of Johnny's body. The pressure and the pain were expected, accepted. Johnny felt a smile on his face as he lifted up and wrapped his legs around Rayden's body. Rayden's hands pinned Johnny's to the bed and the young man's eyes fluttered shut. Finally, his body accepted, relaxed and Rayden started to move, slowly at first, then faster. His mouth fastened over Johnny's, swallowing the cries and half-hearted muttered orders for movement. Lightening flickered across Johnny's skin, tickling him with the promise of power and of pleasure. It seeped into his tissue, his bones, surrounding him. It filled the empty spaces of his body, his soul. He couldn't refuse it, didn't want to. It was Rayden at his most elemental. The driving thrusts of his body were nothing compared to the invasion of his essence. It filled Johnny. It encompassed him. Johnny tried to change the pulse of Rayden's movement, to drive it faster.
The god resisted. His fingers tightened fractionally on Johnny's wrists. He was a god, but he wasn't a peaceful one. He was raw and elemental. Johnny moaned. He pushed against the grip that held him down. This is what he missed when he was alone. He hadn't had a lover to fight in ages. He wanted to beg for more or maybe for mercy, but his mouth was occupied by a hot tongue and sharp teeth at his lips. He came with a kiss-swallowed curse. Rayden joined him. Johnny made a note to ask him if he could always wait like that just before his brain went off line. They ended up in a tangled lump of limbs on the bed. The sparking energy of Rayden's lightening ran over their bodies. They slept.
"Where the Hell have you been?" were the first words out of Linda's mouth when she saw Johnny walk through the front door of his condo. "Do you know exactly how many requests we've had for information on what new project you're working on? You couldn't have planned it any better. We were in the middle of the street and you two just disappeared like David Copperfield snapped his fingers!"
"Rayden, this is Linda. Your fault. You deal. I need a drink." Johnny made his way to the kitchen for some juice. Linda turned her glare on the man who was smirking at her.
"Who are you? How did you meet Johnny? What are your intentions?"
"I met him in Hong Kong. I plan to love him for the rest of my life." Rayden smiled. It was charming, but Linda wasn't in the mood.
"Right. You're a jealous shit if what I watched on that boardwalk was any indication. If you ever hurt him, I'll castrate you with a dull spoon." Linda turned her back on the stunned man and stalked her cousin. "Jack, why didn't you tell me?"
He dropped his glass into the dishwasher. "Because I didn't know he cared. I knew I loved him, but I didn't know if he loved me. And it is love, Linda, not just lust, because I was willing to give up on relationships entirely if I couldn't have him."
"That's the reason you wanted to stop dating? That, that. . ." she spluttered to a stop. "Christ, Jack, couldn't you have fallen for Liu? I could explain him. They're going to look at that man out there and think you've got father issues. No one is going to buy that the glamorous, pretty Johnny Cage fell for a man who's got to be at least twenty years older than he is!"
"Linda, shut up for a minute. Rayden isn't going to go public. He'll let me decide what exactly we want to tell people. No one needs to know who he is or what his business with me is. He could be a new coach, or an old friend of the family. I'll keep dating the bimbos and maybe, just maybe, we can start slipping a guy or two into the roster so that when I finally come out it won't be a total shock. So, did any of the assholes catch a shot of us together?"
"No, all of the pictures came out blurred. Everyone thinks it's a publicity stunt for some new project you're going to pitch."
Johnny considered that for a long moment. There was a thoughtful look in his eyes that made Linda pause.
"You're pitching a new project with him?"
"No, but give me a couple of days and maybe I can. I can hack together a script outline and some financing. A fantasy piece with some special effects. Yeah, it could work. We put Martin in the lead and have Cass as the love interest."
Linda thought. "We can do this. A move into producing."
"Exactly. We can set up our own company if you think we need to."
"No, we can run it under the corporation that runs the dojo. Everyone already knows we all work out there, so it won't be a surprise that the owner will back his customers."
"And nobody knows what the owner looks like, so. . ." They smiled at each other. "We have a plan."
Linda laughed out loud. "I've got to get Cass up here. She's been dying to meet him."
"Okay, so who is he already?" Cass hissed as the door opened to reveal Linda.
Linda smiled and Cass' eyes narrowed. She'd always thought the woman smiled like the Cheshire Cat - cheerfully menacing. Linda let Cass into the room. Johnny was actually sitting in their mystery guest's lap, half-heartedly trying to get away from the fingers that were absently tickling his ribs. "Cass, Rayden."
"Rayden, Cass. Okay, now we can go," Johnny said. His eyes met Rayden's for a long moment in a wordless communication.
"Oh, no you don't. You don't get to pull another disappearing act. Who is he?"
"Someone I met in Hong Kong," Johnny said absently. He was busy running his fingers through Rayden's hair.
"Who just happens to be the best magician this side of Lance Burton? No sale, Johnny."
"I am Lord Rayden, god of thunder." Rayden's voice made Cass lick her lips. She could definitely understand lust. Linda was staring at them. Liu was reading the latest scandal rag.
"Sh," Johnny said, putting a finger to his lips. "She won't buy that. She's an atheist."
"And you?" Rayden smirked.
"You know exactly who I worship these days. Don't be a bitch, Rayden."
The man gave Johnny's ribs a sharp pinch. "Do you want me to prove it?"
"Yes," Cass said. She crossed her arms. Rayden smirked. He lifted a hand and thunder rolled in from a distance. The sun was obscured and the storm started almost instantly. Blue lightening flickered over his fingers. He touched Johnny's cheek gently with them and the young man's eyes widened. Cass was more impressed by the fact that Johnny was moving to straddle him in the middle of the living room than by the storm. She checked the window to be sure. Yes, there truly was a storm going on out there and it wasn't some sort of illusion. She lifted the sash. She could smell the ozone in the air as lightening struck. "You're the reason we've been having such weird weather," she accused. "What happened? Johnny stand you up?"
"I don't like my lovers flirting with men," Rayden stated. Johnny's eyes narrowed. Rayden smirked. "You know I'm jealous, Johnny," he chided. "You are too."
"True. Okay. The girls know. Liu can fill them in on the rest. Didn't you have something important to show me?" Johnny's voice had dropped in pitch. Cass shivered. Damn, and she probably wasn't going to get to see a damned thing. "Cass, Linda will tell you about the new project. Bedroom's that way." Johnny pointed over Rayden's shoulder.
"I know. I don't care. I want you to come here and now."
"Ray, that's my cousin over there and she's close enough to be my sister." Rayden's fingers teased Johnny through his jeans. The young man gasped. "And I will not. . ." Rayden kissed him. "Rayden," he snarled. He made a move to stand up, but Rayden wrapped his arms around him.
"Here, Johnny, and now. You are mine and I want no misconceptions about that."
"No. This isn't your domain." Johnny kissed Rayden savagely. "If you want something, it happens in the bedroom. Or you get nothing at all. Am I clear?"
"Fine." In a flash of blue they were gone.
Cass fanned her face. "Damn."
Mortal Kombat Bedroom