The Oncoming Storm Part 9: Shadows
Liu Kang x Reader and Kung Lao x Reader (gonna do both, two paths!)
So much has happened this night that it's kind of hilariously ridiculous at this point. AND YET we are just beginning. Was that kiss a tease? Maybe. Is this still slow burn? Absolutely. Will it be Fun and Complicated™? Yes. Thanks so much for reading! Next update is Thursday. Going to try to push for another double update this weekend! As always, open to suggestions and if I like them I will integrate them~ Hope you're all doing well.
“I’m really okay, Liu.” Your voice was tired and shaky. Words were difficult after that. How were you supposed to reset and leave that moment so quickly? Liu Kang had managed, but you imagined it had to do with the fact that his hand was covered in your blood and worry and guilt had taken over.
He showed you his hand as if to prove a point and you adjusted against the wall. The hanfu was still tangled behind you, stuck halfway down your arms so you slipped it off the remainder of the way. Then you pulled up your shirt to show him the wound. It was bleeding through the gauze.
“…I don’t think this is proving the point that you want it to prove.”
“Fine.” You pulled the gauze away and the wound, while ugly, was mostly still closed. A few stitches had pulled and blood flowed freely but it definitely could have been worse. “See? Not that bad.”
“I feel like you aren’t taking this seriously, Y/N.” He showed you his hand again, scooting closer. His fingers, warm, brushed around the wound and you shivered. Your hands were still shaking, your heart was still racing. How were you supposed to relax after any of this? You’d had a vision for the first time in years and then Liu Kang had kissed you! Not just kissed you, he’d kissed you and you weren’t sure it would have stopped at that if you hadn’t been bleeding.
“I am. Look, we need to speak with Raiden. I… whatever it is that I saw, Liu, it’s important. If you think that he can decipher it then best to do it right now while it’s fresh, right?” You were afraid to tell him the truths of your childhood illness. This was all too familiar now and saying any of it out loud meant accepting it as reality. Like you would be willing it into the world with words. “I know my limits, Liu Kang. You have to trust me.”
“I do trust you, Y/N.” He reached to touch your cheek again but spotting the blood on his fingers he pulled back before turning his gaze. “You’ll tell me if you’re feeling sick, right?”
“Yes. I’m tougher than I look, I promise.”
“You’re so pale. And freezing.” He held his hand in front of you with the flame again and you winced at the overwhelming heat. In contrast to the cold you were feeling, it was blazing. He frowned.
“Please stop doing that. I’m not going to crumble. I’m not fragile, Liu.”
“Raiden. Then the infirmary.” Liu Kang stood up and offered you the hand that wasn’t on fire. The heat of the fire was killing you. It was too hot. Everything was overstimulating right now. Liu, the fire, the cold, your spinning head, your throbbing side. It was too much. You took his hand and got back to your feet. Your legs were shaking beneath you but you took a second to focus on your posture, on the weight of your body on your feet, and steadied yourself.
Liu Kang extinguished his fire and slipped his arm around you then urged your arm over his shoulder to support you. You didn’t have the heart to tell him you didn’t need him to do that. Besides, that kiss hadn’t ended the way either of you had wanted. Being close was a comfort until you could talk about it though talking about it seemed like this distant, scary thing already. You walked in silence for a time and you slowed your pace as you made it up a flight of stairs.
“Not too late to go to the infirmary.” Liu Kang was avoiding your eyes.
“We’re already almost there.” You stopped walking and pulled out of his arms to lean against the wall. This didn’t help Liu Kang’s worry. You were certain that what he’d seen happen to you had been traumatic. Then all that he’d done after that... That was a lot for you to consider, you were sure it was just as much, if not more, for him.
“I’m uncomfortable with this.” Liu slipped his arm around you again and urged you away from the wall before you were ready and you nearly collapsed into him. “Very uncomfortable.”
“I know you are, but please just humor me.”
“If you pass out, I’m taking you to the infirmary. Also you’re going to owe me an apology at this rate.”
“If I pass out then I will happily apologize, Liu Kang. I’ll tell you how right you are and make it up to you. I promise.”
“I’m holding you to that.” You caught a small smile on his face and were relieved for that. The tense air was exhausting. You made it up the last flight of stairs before the hall with the electrical sculptures and were met by a monk who hurried up to you and bowed.
“Lord Raiden requires isolation for the night. You must turn back.” He seemed nervous to approach you. Probably because of Liu Kang, you guessed. You were nobody. “What’s going on?” He looked between you and then at the state of you. You were both covered in ink and you were covered in blood.
“We must speak with Lord Raiden. It’s urgent. Whatever he’s doing can wait.” Liu bowed his head in spite of his assertion. The monk hesitated and then nodded before disappearing down the hall and out of sight. Liu Kang helped you to the end of the hall and you stood waiting. He didn’t need to hold you, but still he did and it took all of your self-control no to rest against him, not to bring up what happened. There were more important things, you told yourself.
Thankfully, the monk didn’t leave you waiting long. “Please, follow me.” He led you through the doorway that he’d come through and then bowed to you. “Wait here. He will be with you as soon as he can.” The monk bowed and then walked through the door that he’d led you through, leaving the door open and the two of you alone. Liu helped you into a chair near the back wall and then took the seat next to you.
You leaned your elbows on your knees and sighed. When you sat back up, Liu Kang was facing you. He brushed his fingers over your cheek and pushed your hair back. Then he checked your pulse and felt your forehead for a fever. The frustration he’d radiated with you for not going to the infirmary was gone. Only worry and curiosity remained.
“I’m okay, Liu,” you whispered reassuringly and grasped his hand, pulling it away from your face. He nodded but the look of concern didn’t fade. It wasn’t pity, but it was pretty close. Worry was becoming exhausting. You wanted him to trust you. He said he did, but it was hard to believe it when he was so concerned. It was traumatic, you reminded yourself. You needed to talk about it and there just wasn’t the time in that moment. “Really. I’m okay.”
“You’re still so cold.”
“But I’m also okay.” You snatched his hand back as he felt for your pulse again and offered him a tired smile. Despite your racing thoughts, you understood his worry. You just needed to talk. So much had happened. The door leading into the room from the back left opened and Lord Raiden walked in. His presence commanded your attention. You let go of Liu’s hand, feeling as though you were a child who had done something forbidden.
“What’s happened?” He folded his arms over his chest and approached the two of you. Liu Kang stood and bowed before Raiden. You heard the prayer beads shifting into his palm again.
“Lord Raiden, I’m sorry to interrupt you so early in the morning when you’re in isolation but Y/N has had a vision.” Liu didn’t lift his head as he spoke. “A vision of our future.” He went on to explain how he had found you in the fight pit and how your arcana had attacked him. You went pale. He hadn’t told you that! You’d attacked him? You hadn’t even asked him if he was okay. How selfish of you!
Raiden walked around Liu Kang who turned with him and stood before you, imposing and intimidating. “What did you see, Y/N?”
“I…” You hesitated with nerves. The vision really was jumbled up. When you were a kid, you’d struggled to relay what you’d seen to anyone and when you had managed, you’d gotten in trouble. This was no easy task. The times that you’d spoken with certainty had been during your fits and completely without your permission. It was as though there was something else inside of you doing the speaking in those moments. “It’s fuzzy. There was a man with long dark hair, armor, a cloak and his… his eyes went completely black and there was all this… smoke and shadow.” You caught Liu Kang’s gaze fixed on you and locked eyes with him. He had volumes hidden behind them. Raiden caught your shared gaze and you looked away.
“Could you go get some water, Liu Kang?”
“…of course.” Liu seemed as though he didn’t trust this was a real errand but did as he was asked, disappearing from the room. That left you alone with Raiden and he took Liu Kang’s seat and clasped his hands in front of him.
“Now, tell me.” He turned to face you and while his face was severe, he seemed oddly sympathetic. “Please.” That was the first time Raiden seemed like more than intimidating and you were grateful for that. The comparison to the harshness of your father faded from your mind.
“We were in the pit… well they were.” You went on to explain the details of what you had seen, at least what you could remember. You told him about the warriors who had been training with Liu Kang and Kung Lao, the ones you didn’t recognize. You told him about the pillar of smoke that the dark man had conjured and led his armies through. You told him about the visions of pain and fear.
“Who are these other warriors?”
“I don’t know but I can describe them… there was a woman, an American, I think. There was a man with a series of scars all along his face… They were fresh.” You traced the lines over the side of your face and closed your eyes to try and recollect the vision. “A man… with…” You winced and held your head in your hands, a sharp ringing rattling through your ears. You could picture the others, but there was a disconnected between your thoughts and your mouth as if the words were impossible to form. “They were in so much pain, Lord Raiden. I’ve never seen Liu’s…” Your voice cracked and you covered your mouth. The sorrow was overwhelming. Raiden placed a comforting hand on your back. “I don’t know who any of them were. I don’t know where I was. I’m…” You spoke quickly and frantically, the words pouring out of your mouth faster than you thought them. Where were you in those visions?
“It’s okay.” Raiden urged you to stop and so you did. You felt suddenly spent and weak, resting your arms down against your legs and hunching forward. “Breathe, Y/N.”
You did as you were asked and were grateful for the reminder. Liu returned with a pitcher of water and a cup. He crouched before you and set the glass and pitcher aside on the floor. Then he looked to Raiden as if to ask him what happened.
“How long has she been feeling this way?” Raiden stood.
“Feeling what way?” Liu took the seat next to you again and Raiden placed a hand upon your shoulder. His eyes went completely white and electricity rang through the air. Then he pulled his hand back in surprise, as though you had been the one to shock him.
“…darkness looms over you.” He tilted his head curiously. Your heart dropped. Raiden was haunting to watch. “Something dark from your youth.” He turned his back to them and walked away. “You cannot fight. This affliction will make you weak.”
“No.” You stood and while your legs wobbled, you fought to prove that you could. “I want to fight. I can fight. I’m fine.”
“As you are? It would only lead to your death.” Raiden turned to face you but seemed curious of your determination to defy him. You’d been told no almost your whole life and you had rejected it time and again. This would be no different. You would fight. Nothing would stop you.
“This shadow over you is one I cannot place. It will drain you. It has drained you. Made your blood thin. It is unnatural.”
“Lord Raiden, Y/N’s arcana is strong. It can fight for her if she cannot.” Liu bowed his head before Raiden but the look on his face made you turn away. Fear. You felt your stomach rattle with nerves. What if Raiden was right? What if you couldn’t fight? You would try but the fear you saw on Liu rattled you. What shadow was it that hung over you? Was he talking about your ability to see? Something that you had thought you’d lost in your youth. It had never felt particularly dark other than that it had made you terribly sick.
“I’m afraid that without understanding of this shadow then it might be impossible.”
“We’ll help her train with her arcana, Lord Raiden. We will make certain that no shadow will control her.” Liu Kang’s fear had faded and was replaced with determination, thank god. That was a huge relief.
“Oh? Then I will entrust you with this task, Liu Kang. You and Kung Lao. Make certain that you are careful.” Raiden looked back to you. “This affliction runs deeper than you think. If her arcana is beyond her control as you claimed tonight then it could cause you both great harm. And just as terribly, if this wound was worse than a scrape from Kung Lao’s hat then she might not be here at all.”
You slumped back into the chair and furrowed your brow, holding your head in your hands. You’d fought it and won once before. You would fight it again. You had to hold onto hope that whatever this shadow was, whatever this affliction was, it was temporary. You didn’t want to believe that this was the end of your journey as a warrior.
Liu’s familiar hand fell on your cheek, warm and comforting. You leaned into his touch.
“We’ll find a way. Don’t lose faith.” He assured you and you were thankful for his kind smile. Out of habit, you placed your hand over his. You felt Raiden’s eyes on you, observing you. Your cheeks flushed.
“One of the monks woke me and told me something happened.” Kung Lao walked through the doorway before you could comprehend that he’d joined you. Liu Kang pulled his hand back very quickly. “I stopped by the fight pit on the way over and it was covered in ink. I was worried.” Kung Lao walked toward you but Raiden stopped him and pulled him aside to fill him in on what he knew. You watched the guilt wash over him. He stole a glance at you then turned back to Raiden. His eyes kept flittering over to you. He was battling an internal war, blaming himself for the wound on your side.
“Don’t look at me like that.” You straightened your posture and collected yourself the best you could. There would be plenty of time to dwell on the difficulty of the situation later. Right now you had to pick yourself up and move forward. There was no point in feeling down. “This isn’t anyone’s fault. I’m going to be fine.”
“For now you will recover.” Raiden placed one hand behind his back and walked away from the trio. “When you are feeling better, then we will decipher your vision using my gift. That way we can try and understand the truth of what you’ve seen.”
“And the shadow?” You weren’t sure what that even meant. You wanted to know more.
“We will see what we can uncover.” Raiden assured you. “For now you will be taken to the infirmary.”
“I’m fine.” You didn’t get to argue with them. Honestly, it was almost like you weren’t there and had no say in what happened next.
“I’ll take her there.” Kung Lao lifted you out of the chair without asking for permission or waiting for a response, cradling you in his arms.
“I can walk. My legs work fine.” The further you were from your visions, the more normal you felt. You were certain you could make the journey.
“Just humor me, will you?”
“Fine, but I’m annoyed,” you whispered but even looking at Kung Lao made your face hot. Liu Kang had turned away from you but the memory of the kiss they’d shared in the hall was still in the forefront of your thoughts. Boy, that had made things instantly more complicated than they’d been only a few hours ago.
“I’m willing to deal with that.” Kung Lao bowed his head to Raiden and then carried you out of the room.
Liu Kang listened to the footsteps of Kung Lao carrying you back to the infirmary. He gripped the prayer beads around his hand and felt their round shape press hard into his flesh. “How bad is it, Lord Raiden?” Liu Kang was grateful not to be left alone with his questions.
“It is unnatural, this affliction.”
“You said that but I know for a fact that she is not the first to speak prophetically in your temple.”
“Not her visions, Liu Kang. The shadow that hangs over her because of them. There is more to it than meets the eye. Something else. Or someone else. A creation of another world, I would guess.” Raiden walked past him. “I can see into your heart, Liu Kang.”
“What do you mean something or someone? A creation from another world? Can it be fought?”
“I will try to uncover the truth.”
“Why would anyone create this? And why her when there are many others with such a gift?”
“Because of what she has seen, Liu Kang. She saw a warning. If she saw more warnings and could communicate them then they would be valuable weapons against our enemies. More valuable as one who foresees than a fighter. Think of what we could prevent.”
“I will protect her, Raiden. From any shadow.” Liu Kang placed his fist to his palm and bowed.
“Of course you will. She is in more trouble than any of us have yet realized.”
“If we can get control over her arcana, then she can be that much stronger.”
“Yes, Liu Kang. There’s a storm coming, unseen, this is but the calm.” Raiden hung his head. “Liu Kang, about…”
“I know. I know that it’s complicated.” He was deeply uncomfortable discussing this with Raiden. It wasn’t Raiden’s place but if he thought you were of value as a seer, then he could see why it would concern him. “I cannot explain it. There is a thread of fate between us. Some greater purpose.”
“All I was going to say, Liu Kang, was to be careful.” Raiden smiled knowingly.
Liu Kang bowed again and then left without another word.
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Defrosting The Ice King, Chapter 1 - Ice, Ice, Melt Your Heart
Pairing: Johnny Cage/Kuai Liang
Chapter Rating: General
Chapter Warnings: Modern AU, Drinking, Paparazzi, Bisexual awakening, Kuai is tsundere as hell
Notes: Hello, welcome to rare pair hell, population me. I don't even know, this started as something for my song shorts, but it ended up not really fitting the song, but I liked it too much to just scrap it so... HERE WE GO MULTICHAPTER MODERN AU FANFIC ABOUT JOHNNY TRYING TO BANG KUAI LIANG. I'm considering this like a side project that I'll just add to every now and then when I feel like writing it, so... Yeah. Enjoy.
Really Johnny knew he didn't belong here. This high-class party for the rich and powerful. Sure, he was a billionaire movie star, but unlike everyone else in the room, he'd come from nothing. So everyone in the room was way more important than him, and he had no doubt in his mind on that fact. He tried to act like it didn't bother him, cocky movie star Johnny Cage didn't care about the jeers and sneers of these rich jerks.
He'd just come out the other end of a very public and messy divorce and he really just wanted to party and forget. Cassie was safely tucked away with her grandparents so when he got the invite he'd thought why not, even if he really didn't belong among these people.
As he was ordering a drink at the open bar, his eye was caught by the man next to him. Asian, Short black hair, a scar over one eye and blue eyes. He was pretty, and initially that was all that Johnny thought until he found his eyes kept drifting over to the man who was propped up against the bar. He was very pretty, now Johnny was really looking at him. He always had a feeling he wasn't exactly straight, but this was definitely the first time he'd ever considered hitting on another dude.
Debating if he should or not, eventually he decided to hell with it and loudly declared “What's cookin', good lookin'?”
The man's eyes widened as he looked over at Johnny in disbelief, “Excuse me?”
“Name's Johnny Cage, what's yours gorgeous?” Usually, this line worked. At least on most women he met, who immediately realised he was Johnny Cage famous movie star. This man however just looked at him like he was some sort of unwanted pest. As the bartender gave the man his drink, he rolled his eyes, grabbed it and walked away without even so much as a glance at Johnny. Ouch. He'd never been rejected quite that hard before.
“God you have a bit of a death wish, Mr. Cage.” Johnny jumped at the voice, realising another man was stood beside him now. He was a black man with dreadlocks, wearing a bright yellow suit. Johnny wasn't exactly familiar with him.
“In what way?” Johnny questioned, his drink finally being given to him.
“As in trying to flirt with Kuai Liang,” the man replied, pointing out the drink he wanted to the bartender. “I'm honestly surprised you came out of it with just the roll of the eyes, and not a broken nose to be honest.”
“Hard to win over then?” Johnny questioned, scanning the room to see Kuai Liang, now stood across the room with a few other men. He looked kind of bored if Johnny was being honest.
“He's got a reputation for being a bit of an ice king,” the man explained, joining Johnny in staring at Kuai across the room. “And I say that as someone who's been his friend for years.” The man finally held out his hand for Johnny to shake, “I'm Thabo, but you can call me Cyrax.”
“Johnny Cage, but it sounds like you already know that.” Johnny accepted the hand, briefly looking away from Kuai Liang to meet the other man's gaze. “So, uh, what's ice king's deal then?”
“Well, he's a member of the Song family,” Cyrax explained, Johnny tilted his head not really aware of the family in question. Maybe another sign he really didn't belong at this party, but he pushed that thought to the back of his mind. “His father, Song Jian is one of the founders of Lin Kuei.” Johnny whistled at that. Lin Kuei were one of the worlds leading tech companies, in fact, Johnny's own phone was a Lin Kuei. “He's the Song's youngest child, so if you want to go after him, be prepared. His family are very protective of him.”
“He's used to the finer things in life then,” Johnny mused, watching as Kuai crossed his arms, lent to one side, not actually looking at the people he was conversing with.
“Something like that. As said I've been his friend for years but...” Cyrax grimaced a little. “He is a little bit spoilt.” Cyrax took a sip of his drink. “He's also not very... uh... well socialised, I guess?” Johnny raised his eyebrow at that. “Like I said, parents are very protective, he hasn't ever had many friends. Only reason I'm allowed near him is cause my father is Jian's attorney.”
“Sounds... Lonely.” Johnny kind of felt bad for the guy, if that was the case.
“Yeah, I think he is, but because he's never really had anyone I don't think he always knows how he's supposed to act so he just pushes people away instead.” Cyrax was staring at Kuai, and Johnny couldn't help but consider how concerned he looked.
“So, uh, why are you telling me this anyway?”
“Cause you seemed interested in him, figured I should give you a heads up on what his deal is.” Cyrax sighed as he watched Kuai seemingly finally have enough of the people he was with and walk away. “Also between you and me, I think you'd be good for him.”
Johnny hummed, “What, cause I'm so drop dead gorgeous?”
“Because you're easy going. He's used to people who are uptight and 'proper'.” Cyrax was grinning. “I'm willing to bet you'd be able to get him out of his shell.”
“Defrost the ice king, huh?” Johnny thought about it. “Yeah. I reckon I can give it a go.”
“Then I wish you luck, Johnny Cage.” Cyrax patted Johnny on the back a couple of times, before something caught his attention across the room. “Sorry, someone needs me. Hopefully we'll meet again.”
“Likewise dude.” Johnny lifted his glass as Cyrax walked away from him. He watched him for a few seconds, seeing him approach some other man who was wearing red.
Deciding there was nothing to be learned from that, he looked around for Kuai Liang again. He spotted the man, now standing alone and glaring at his drink. If there was ever an opportunity to try and make another opening, this was it. So he walked over, casually as he possibly could and slid next to the man. Kuai barely looked his way, just shifted slightly as if to make space between the two, despite Johnny not being that close.
“So... I didn't catch your name,” Johnny tried, despite the fact he already knew it. Kuai didn't know that, and it might be weird if Johnny just knew his name out of nowhere.
Kuai gave an annoyed sounding huff as he growled “I didn't throw it.” Man, definitely an ice king. There was a second of silence, after which Kuai seemed to realise that Johnny wasn't leaving. “Song Kuai Liang,” he finally muttered, not meeting Johnny's gaze.
“So, Kuai Liang,” Johnny started, hoping to god he was pronouncing the name right. Since Kuai didn't argue with him about it, something he seemed likely to do, he guessed he had. “Did you sit in sugar? Because you've got a sweet ass.”
Kuai's head snapped around to him. Unsurprisingly, he looked a bit pissed off, but not quite as much as Johnny had expected. “Really? That's the best you've got?”
“Heard that one before then?” Johnny teased. He could imagine that the other man got a lot of attention from people of all genders. He'd probably heard everything under the sun.
Kuai looked him up and down for a minute, seemingly regarding him in some way. “Who exactly are you again?”
“Johnny Cage,” he chimed up cheerfully, holding out his hand to shake. Kuai did not go to meet his hand, looking at him blankly. Obviously Johnny's name meant nothing to the man. “I'm an actor. Uh, Y'know... Ninja Mime, Citizen Cage? Ring any bells?”
“Sorry, I only watch good films,” Kuai said coldly. It was clear he meant it as an insult, but it was so blunt Johnny couldn't help but laugh.
“Holy shit,” he managed to bark out between his giggles. Kuai was looking very taken aback by Johnny's outburst. “That was brutal man, holy fuck.” He ran a hand through his hair. “God, it's been a while since I've been roasted like that.”
Kuai looked like he was about to say something, before another voice interrupted with “Is this guy bothering you, Kuai Liang?
Johnny turned to see the same man wearing red that Cyrax had been talking to. He was giving Johnny a filthy look, like he was not worthy of being in his presence. What's this guys problem?
“We were just talking,” Kuai stated. “Mr. Cage was telling me about his movie career.”
“Oh, you're the actor,” the man said, as if being an actor was in some way a bad thing. Wow, this guy really thinks I'm beneath him, doesn't he?
“Yeah, I am. Johnny Cage and you are?” Johnny gave a smirk as he reached his hand forward to shake. Johnny was trying to rub it in the man's face that he didn't know who he was, ergo, he was no where near as important as he thought he was.
The man looked at him like he wanted to strangle him. “Zhou Shun. Heir to Lin Kuei.”
“Only partially.” Johnny was kind of surprised when Kuai stated that, his brow furrowed as he stared at Shun. “You only inherit your father's half, Bi-Han inherits the rest.” Given the way Shun eyes narrowed, he didn't like being reminded of that fact. “Did you actually need something Sektor, or are you just getting jealous that I'm talking to a man who isn't you?”
Johnny's eyes darted between the two. Tense silence as Shun and Kuai stared each other down. Clearly there was something between the two of them that Johnny wasn't privy to. Something more than their father's being business partners anyway.
“I merely thought you looked uncomfortable,” Shun seemed to be trying to deflect the tension, his voice sweet as honey to a point it sounded completely fake. “I wished to make sure he wasn't bothering you.”
“He isn't. You are.”
There was another stretch of silence, this one somehow even more awkward. No matter how cold Kuai had seemed with Johnny, it appeared that was nothing compared to whatever he felt about Shun. Definitely more to this...
“Okay then,” Shun finally got the hint to back off. “Do let me know if he does, though.”
“I won't. Now go.” Kuai made a shooing motion with his hand, clearly getting more frustrated with Shun's inability to get the message. Finally the man seemed to retreat, but not before giving Johnny one last glare.
Once Shun had gotten a fair distance away, Johnny turned back to Kuai and gestured towards him with his head a subtly as he could. “So, is he your ex or something?”
“You'd think he was, the way he acts,” Kuai grumbled, taking a large swig of his drink. “He's been trying to get with me for years.”
“Not your type?” Johnny asked.
“No, I don't go for people who want to marry me for my family's money,” Kuai spat in a bitter tone. Johnny was kind of surprised that Kuai would be open about something like that. Kuai appeared to realise that Johnny was taken aback, and just shrugged. “It's not exactly a secret.”
Johnny hummed with a mouthful of his drink, before he downed it and added “Lifestyles of the rich and the famous... They never told me about this sort of shit in stage school.”
“No, I suppose they wouldn't.” Kuai agreed almost absent-mindedly. Then his head tilted in curiosity as he asked, “You went to stage school? Forgive me if I am wrong, but I believed those were... expensive?”
It was a more polite way of saying “I thought you grew up poor”. It was something that came up often, usually not quite as nicely worded, so Johnny was willing to let it slide, especially with the knowledge Kuai was just generally like this. But it was interesting, given that Kuai had acted like he didn't know anything about him.
“I thought you didn't know who I was?” Johnny teased, and Kuai once more rolled his eyes.
“I knew there was an actor here, I didn't know it was you. People around here talk, especially when there's someone they don't believe belongs here.”
“Lemme guess, people wondering why someone from the backstreets is allowed to mingle with the upper crusts of society?” Johnny asked sarcastically, somewhat surprised when Kuai smirked back at him.
“These people are the sort who are born into money, and feel entitled to it. So when there's someone who came from nothing and managed to work their way up, they feel threatened.” Kuai spoke in a very matter of fact way, Johnny was finding, as if this was just how it was.
“Not you though?” Johnny instead felt like he had to ask that.
“It's your money, why should I care how you got it?” Kuai paused, then frowned. “I suppose unless you got it illegally, but I do not think that's what happened.”
“No, everything I got was gained legitimately,” Johnny assured him, kind of amused by Kuai's train of thought. “To answer your original question though, I got in on a scholarship.”
“Ah.” That seemed to placate Kuai Liang's curiosity on the subject. He looked at his empty glass, before his eyes flicked over to see Johnny's was similarly empty. “Care to get another drink with me?”
“Oof, and here was me thinking I was annoying you,” he joked. Kuai closed his eyes, it was barely noticeably, but the man was smiling.
“I have decided you're considerably less annoying than the majority of people here.” Johnny was used to being the most annoying person in the room, knowing that infamous ice king Kuai Liang found him tolerable was weirdly self satisfying.
“Wow... That was almost a compliment.” Johnny couldn't stop grinning, even as Kuai shook his head.
Still, not one to turn down an invite for a drink from a pretty face, Johnny walked with him, interesting on where this could possibly lead him.
Johnny groaned, his head spinning as he tried to figure out what woke him up. It took him a few seconds to realise his cell phone was going off. He grabbed it off his bedside cabinet, noticing the caller ID was Kenshi. He sighed and answered.
“Y'ello?” His voice came out in a croak.
There was a beat of silence before Kenshi came out with “You're hungover, aren't you?”
“Ugh, it was a crazy party last night,” He tried, realising he hadn't looked at the time. Apparently it was midday. Holy fuck. He hadn't been this late waking up in years.
“Too crazy to meet up for a coffee?” Kenshi asked.
“Nah. Let me throw some clothes on.” Johnny pushed himself out of bed, searching around for some clean clothes.
“Alright. See you in a few minutes.” The phone went dead. That was... Odd. Kenshi didn't usually do that. Oh fuck, what have I done now?
He didn't want to think about it. Instead he threw on the first clothes he found, quickly smoothed his hair down, and made his way through the condo. Grabbed his car keys and went off on his way. When he finally arrived at the café, Kenshi was already there, Hanzo too, actually, which hadn't been mentioned to him. Yep, I've definitely fucked up somehow.
“Hey, sorry, I got caught in traffic,” he greeted, neither of the men got up to greet him back, just gave him a look. As Johnny sat down, he realised they'd already brought his coffee. He stared at the cup, and then at his two friends. “Alright, what did I do now?”
Hanzo wordlessly handed him his phone, open on some trashy celebrity gossip website. The headline read “Johnny Gay-ge???” and he immediately had a feeling where this was going.
Indeed, when he scrolled down, there was an image of him at the party last night, sitting next to Kuai Liang with his hand on Kuai's thigh. Who the fuck even took that photograph? He scrolled down to at least read part of the article.
“Movie star Jonathan Carlton, better known by his stage name Johnny Cage, was spotted last night at a party getting friendly with another man. The star of the Ninja Mime series has recently divorced from his second wife, the stated reason was mutual differences. Could these differences be a clash in sexuality?”
He should have known by now he couldn't do anything without the press finding out but, really? Who the hell at that party would take a photograph and give it to the press? And besides, why was his sexuality such pressing news anyway? It was 2021, who gave a fuck if he liked men, women, cis, transgender or people on the broader spectrum of gender. He scrolled back to the photo, it looked like someone had tried to take it without being spotted. It's so strange. Still he sighed, passing the phone back to Hanzo.
“They could have at least come up with a better gay pun for the headline,” he commented, leaning back in his chair and finally getting to his coffee. “I'm more upset about that than anything else.” He thought about the photograph again. “Although I would like to know who the fuck took that photograph.”
“Johnny, how many times do we have to tell you to be more careful with your dating life,” Kenshi questioned, rubbing his temple. “You know the press are vultures who lap up this stuff.”
“Look as far as I knew, it was a private party,” Johnny argued. “How'd you even find the article anyway?”
“One of my assistants sent it to me,” Hanzo grumbled, clearly far more unhappy about this than Kenshi actually was. “You do know who this guy is right?”
“Song Kuai Liang, son of one of the founders of Lin Ku-” Johnny paused, suddenly realising why Hanzo was so pissed off. Hanzo was CEO of Shirai Ryu, Lin Kuei's biggest rival in the tech industry. “Oooh.”
“Oh? That's all you have to say after fraternizing with my biggest competition?”
“Come on Hanzo,” Johnny whined, flailing his arms around. “It wasn't fraternizing with your enemy, from what I gathered Kuai Liang has very little to do with Lin Kuei.” He shook his head, remembering what Hanzo had said when Johnny brought his phone. “Besides I thought you didn't care? That's what you said when I got a Lin Kuei phone instead of one of yours.” He held up and waved his phone around.
“That's different! That's buying a product, and I have no problems with you choosing whichever works for you, but this is you directly interacting with people you know I am on bad terms with.”
Johnny rubbed his eyes with his hand. “Look, I didn't think about it like that okay? He was a pretty guy in a crowd and I went for it. Lin Kuei and Shirai Ryu's brand rivalry wasn't really in the forefront of my mind.”
Before the discussion could go any further, Johnny jumped as his phone went off. He looked down at it, to see the caller ID come up as “Kuai Liang”. Wait, when did we exchange numbers? He tried to wrack his brain, vaguely remembering slipping Kuai his phone right before he left.
Hanzo and Kenshi were looking at him. “It's him.”
Hanzo looked like he wanted to start chewing Johnny out again, but before he could Kenshi chimed up with “Put it on speaker.”
Johnny didn't really consider why Kenshi wanted it on speaker, he just clicked the answer button a placed the phone on the table. “Y'ello?”
“Jonathan?” Kuai's voice questioned on the other end.
“Yeah, hey, how are you?” God Johnny hadn't felt this awkward about being rang by someone he'd flirted with since he was in high school.
“I...” There was a pause, Johnny could hear a strange tapping sound. “Have you seen that a photograph of us is doing the rounds online?”
“Yeah, a friend of mine sent me an article.” Johnny bit his lip, eyes flicking over to Kenshi and Hanzo who were listening intently.
“The Johnny Gay-ge one by any chance?” Kuai snorted as he spoke, and Johnny gave an affirmative hum. “... I'm sure they could have found a better gay pun than that.”
“Thank you! That is exactly what I said.” Johnny looked at Kenshi and Hanzo as if to say “I told you so”. Hanzo just looked blankly at him, but he could see Kenshi desperately trying to hold back a smile.
“It's troubling me that someone took the photograph in the first place,” Kuai admitted, it seemed he mirrored Johnny's thoughts on the subject. There was only one person at the party he could think of that might have had a personal reason for doing something like this.
“I mean, I don't want to point fingers but that Shun guy really wasn't happy about me talkin' to you.” Hanzo's expression changed slightly, like he was curious about that. Then again, if Shun was the son of Lin Kuei's other founder, then Hanzo was likely familiar with him as well. Maybe he'll tell me what the fuck Shun's damage is?
“Admittedly that was my first thought, though I find it hard to see what his end game could be.”
“Publicly humiliating me to get me to back off from you?” Johnny theorised, it made sense, at least to him. “Unfortunately for him, I am not easy to humiliate. Having my divorce plastered all over the media completely shattered my sense of shame.”
“Good to know.” There was a beat of silence, and Johnny heard the man take a deep breathe, “In that case then, if you would like to prove the point to him, we could... go to dinner some time.”
Johnny couldn't help the lopsided grin on his face at that. A glance over to Kenshi showed he looked somewhat giddy by it, while Hanzo's previous anger had been replaced by surprise.
“That sounds like your asking me on a date,” he teased, watching Kenshi reach to slap Hanzo's bicep lightly.
“I... Um... I...” Kuai stuttered on the other end, clearly flustered by the fact it had been pointed out to him. “I suppose... it would be one... Yes.” Another pause. “I-If you want it to be one?”
“How's tonight at 6 sound?” Johnny asked, wiggling his eyebrows at Kenshi who looked as ecstatic. To Johnny's bewilderment, even Hanzo looked kind of pleased for him.
“Yes!” Kuai replied almost over eagerly. “I- I mean, yes, that would be wonderful.” Kuai coughed slightly. “I'll um. I'll pick you up at half 5?”
“Sure thing, I'll see you then, babe.” Johnny felt so very self satisfied that Kuai gave a strange squeak at the nickname, before he hurriedly said goodbye and ended the call. Johnny cackled slightly looking back up at Kenshi and Hanzo before he happily announced “I have a date!”
“We heard,” Kenshi replied, his grin almost as wide as Johnny's. “I'm glad you're getting back out there.”
“What was that stuff about Shun?” Hanzo asked, seemingly skipping over Johnny's date for now. “Because I assume you meant Zhou Shun.”
“Yeah, apparently he's been trying to get Kuai to date him for years,” Johnny answered, he wondered if he should really be telling Hanzo this, but Kuai himself has said it wasn't exactly a secret. “Seems to think that marrying Kuai will land him with the Song families money.”
Hanzo gave a disgusted sounding tut before he grumbled “always knew that guy was a fucking slime ball.” Hanzo started to rub his chin, “That said, you must of pulled some serious moves on Kuai Liang, I've never heard him talk that much before.”
“Really?” Kenshi questioned, the only person sat at the table who had not interacted with Kuai.
“People call him an ice king for a reason,” Hanzo indulged, and Johnny found it interesting that really was the man in questions reputation as a whole. He'd figured it was an in-joke between his inner circle. “Most of the time he looks at you like you're either stupid or boring to him, like everyone around him is an annoyance.”
“Last night he told me I was considerably less annoying than anyone else in the room,” Johnny brightly chimed in, now even more proud of that.
“You? The least annoying person in the room?” Kenshi exaggerated his surprise and Johnny stuck his tongue out despite knowing Kenshi couldn't see the action. “Don't you stick your tongue out at me!”
“It's really creepy when you do that, you know that right?” Hanzo commented and Kenshi just laughed. “Still, Johnny as much as I wish your bisexual awakening had been from someone who wasn't related to my biggest business rival, I wish you luck with your date.”
“Thank you,” Johnny said, sincerely glad that Hanzo was willing to put his own problems aside for Johnny. “I'll keep you guys posted.”
“You'd better,” Kenshi said. “I want all the deets.”
“The deets?” Johnny snorted. “What are you? A teenage girl?”
The conversation dissolved into teasing and playful arguments. Internally, Johnny started to figure out a plan of action for his upcoming date.
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