Disclaimer: Mortal Kombat isn't mine. You have no idea how quickly I'd wish it were so if I suddenly found a magical genie in my Pepsi (waits for it, sighs when the Pepsi fails her). I don't own Febreze or Tide, and am not earning any money or profits by using their products in my fic. I felt like giving Stryker some grief while my FFX muse went on an unauthorized vacation. I'm lame, I know.

Summary: Stryker knew about bad birthdays. This took the cake in all its pink-frosted, happy-smiley-faced glory. A bit AU from the DOTR series, borrows characters from MK games, and is pretty much an exercise in how cracked I can make a birthday turn out.

Ever since his eighteenth birthday, Stryker had chosen to ignore his day of birth. Many reasons were the cause of this. Most of them had to do with the fact that six daughters, two sons, and two parents, who were all quite fond of eating and not being nude in public, depleted what money there was in the bank account for the essentials. This meant money was tight and few material gifts were ever bought and exchanged.

This lack of financial wealth was not what made Stryker unhappy. Like all other loyal sons, he willingly gave up that new V-8 pick-up truck with the very cool decal on the side in favor of quiet time with the family and happy memories (though nothing ever stopped a boy from dreaming).

Unfortunately, his parents being as loving and guilty as they were, chose to make the children happy with gifts they made by hand. After the hand-me-down pair of underwear from his father at the age of six (the pair his mother had so lovingly darned and upon which stitched a little green froggy), Stryker learned quickly (very quickly) how to smile convincingly and lie through his teeth that, "Yes of course I'm wearing the gift, Mom, why wouldn't I be?"

But yes, there were other reasons. Like the time when the school bullies chose to make him their target after the teacher announced that little itty bitty Kurty was turning ten today, and so was a very wery special day for him. They had dumped garbage on him, turned his pants inside out without undoing the zipper (that still baffled him to this day), and threw him into the nearby creek that was terribly polluted. His parents then added to the humiliation by going to every one of the bullies' houses and making them apologize to their dearest son.

Stryker managed to hide the bruises from his parents the day after.

Then there was the time at twelve, when his best friend Luke told him to kiss Maybelle Tanner, the cutest girl in school and the crush of all the male sixth-grade students, Stryker included. Stryker still cringed at the memory of her shrieking and slapping him so hard he had a handprint on his face for the rest of the day. That was the first day of school he had ever skipped, but not the last.

His eighteenth birthday had been the straw that broke the camel's back. Not only had his eleven-year-old sister wound up with cake-baking duty (his untalented eleven-year-old sister, at that) but his oldest sister thought it would be hilarious to hire a stripper, right in their home with their mother watching on.

And then things went downhill from there.

Thereafter, Stryker pretended he had no real birthday. When New Years ended, he was one year older. When West Point Academy, the NYPD, and multiple other sources asked for his birth date, he reminded himself it was only a series of digits. When people asked him about his birthday, he said he didn't have one. That usually made people laugh and forget they asked about it.

He had carefully and successfully avoided this horrendous celebration for over fifteen years. But now his well-crafted plans were slowly and steadily pouring down the drain.

Nightwolf had found his birth date. It had conveniently been a week away.

So now he was sitting morosely in a bar, wearing the nicest shirt and dress pants he could find in his bachelor pad in a short period of time (which meant basically the clothes at the top of his laundry hamper which just so happened to be a blue shirt and black pants, showered with liberal amounts of Febreze and scrubbed with the Tide stain-removing pen) wishing the alcohol would have quicker effects. Of course, as it usually was with his birthday, Stryker had no such luck.

Presents had yet to be given, though Jax had finished distributing the pink-frosted (he suspected Sonya had ordered pink frosting as a friendly joke) chocolate ice cream cake that had an obscenely-happy smiley-face designed on the top. Stryker had taken a forkful to appease and fool everyone into thinking he liked it, and deviously dumped the remainder behind the bar. To prevent him from gloriously upchucking, he told himself firmly as he swallowed that the cake-layer was not the mixture of wild rice and yeast his sister's cake had been, but it was a close call. The lager Kabal had been kind enough to serve him earlier managed to drown the spongy cake before he could truly taste the texture and flavor.

Kabal's presence and those of others also confused Stryker. He knew Kabal only from that brief instance where he had saved their asses from being handed to them and kept Sonya from harm's way, but other than that he had no real emotion for the man. Then there was Kung Lao, and Gemini from Jax's team, and some person Liu and Kung Lao called Kai, and then Johnny of all people (And here I thought the guy was dead, Stryker had thought to himself when he first saw the actor) and a whole slew of others of whom Stryker could barely recall the names. He even thought Raiden had snuck in a god or two from the Heavens, and that just made him all kinds of trigger-finger-twitchy (who wanted a god at their birthday party, whom could tell him exactly the last sin he had committed and exactly which level in Hell he'd go to for such a crime anyhow?). He suspected that his friends, well-meaning as they were, had invited anyone and everyone who could attend, regardless of acquaintanceship.

"You look like you're having fun," someone remarked from behind. Turning, he saw Sub-Zero regarding him with a closed expression. The man had managed to find an outfit that wasn't a Lin Kuei uniform, colored blue or black, and still made him the most mysterious mortal in the bar, a feat that Stryker was still trying to figure out (especially since Sub-Zero was wearing red and a dark shade of purple for shirt and pants, respectively).

"Loads," Stryker saluted him with his mug of lager, downing the last of the alcohol in one swig. "Who's the guy in the corner, again? The fat one Kung Lao and Liu brought from the Temple?"

"Bo'Rai Cho," Sub-Zero told him, grabbing a fresh water bottle (while everyone trusted one another to respect the nonalcoholic beverage, drunkards were never certain of their own actions) and popping off the cap. "He's training Liu."

Stryker paused as he leaned over the bar to get a fresh drink. "He's training Liu?"

Sub-Zero shrugged. "I didn't ask for details."

Deciding to put that tidbit of information aside, Stryker poured his new drink and began nursing his mug once more. "How exactly did you guys manage to get all these people? I didn't think free beer would attract this many."

Lifting a brow, Sub-Zero retorted, "Do you really think I had anything to do with the party invitations?"

Considering that, Stryker acquiesced. "True. Sorry. So, is anything in there from you?" Stryker jabbed his thumb at the obscene pile of ribbon, gaudy paper, and one or two boxes that Stryker strongly suspected were simply more beer meant for the party, disguised as a gift to get past the alcohol limit imposed by Nightwolf and Kitana.

The man shifted, guilt detectable only through three years of knowing him. "No. The Lin Kuei complex doesn't exactly have a . . . gift shop, among its facilities. And I had no time before the party to buy anything appropriate for you."

"Don't worry about it, man," Stryker assured him, patting him lightly on the shoulder. "I like you better now than if you had gotten me a present. I hate this damn day."

Sub-Zero's eyebrows dipped, the only indicator of a frown. "Isn't that contradictory thinking? Shouldn't you be happy you were born?"

"I'm not saying that I hate I was born," Stryker clarified, "I'm saying that I hate celebrating my birthday. It's never gone well for me. Ever."

Watching the party continue on strongly (someone had managed to wrestle a karaoke machine into the bar, and now bouts of horrendous singing filtered through the air), Sub-Zero said, "It doesn't seem as though this party is too terrible, unless you're sitting next to Bo while he's lecturing everyone about his ultimate martial art."

"The night is still young, my friend," Stryker answered with an experienced air about him. "I learned that the hard way."

The party did get technically worse, as the people became more drunk and consequently more boisterous, and a few glasses broke when Johnny tried to hit on Gemini and the woman made her protest known quite physically, and Raiden got into a verbal argument with the Wind God Fujin over who exactly was the better god that quickly deteriorated into a fist-fight (Raiden won by a mile, though that may have been due to Raiden using the juke-box illegally as a weapon), and then the guy Stryker vaguely knew as Mokap used Kitana's present (an enlarged, decorative fan) as a weapon, parodying Kitana herself. The parody didn't last long, as Kabal thought it would be hilarious to use Jax's gift of a new-and-improved baton to beat up the "fake" Stryker Mokap represented. While Stryker felt somewhat entertained by the show (helped along by the considerable amount of alcohol he consumed) he did not think it was quite so funny when Kabal misjudged the distance to Mokap and wound up hitting Stryker with his very own baton.

Fortunately, he had only blacked out for a minute or two. That was much better than his eighth birthday, when the tire-swing his father had made broke and he'd wound up falling head-first into the river, waking up two days later in the hospital only to find out he'd missed the biggest bully in the entire school get food poisoning.

Of course, after he had recovered from the minor black out, Stryker wished he had stayed unconscious. Because then Johnny had the gall to give him his birthday present.

Stryker couldn't even be spiteful and tell Johnny to shove the cameo appearance in his next movie up the place where the sun didn't shine. Not when the gesture had been made as a gift.

Stryker sighed. In spite of everything, the party hadn't been a complete bust. He'd had alcohol, he'd managed to avoid the ER, and his mother wasn't chasing a stripper out of the house with a lead-lined pan. This birthday had been decent and, dare he say it, fun.

Nonetheless, Stryker retreated to the roof of the bar when it became apparent his presence wouldn't be missed. Taking a large bottle of alcohol and a mug, Stryker sat on the ledge of the rooftop and enjoyed the scenery of his home, New York City.

"This spot taken?" a feminine someone asked. He contemplated looking over, but he felt no grand curiosity that needed to be satiated five seconds before the person revealed herself.

"Nah." The person settled next to him, revealing her blonde hair, blue eyes, and slim but impressive figure wrapped in a light blue tank top and a navy ankle-length skirt (all the men, mortals and gods alike, were still dragging the details out of Kitana how she had managed to put a skirt on Sonya of all people). "Want some? Don't have another mug, though."

"Brought my own," Sonya replied, holding hers out to be filled. As he poured, she asked, "That the bottle Bo got you?"

"Yep," Stryker filled his mug.

"He was wondering where that one went. He's down there right now bawling because it was his best bottle of tequila."

"Well, he shouldn't have given it to me as a present, then. It's my damn present, so for once I'm going to enjoy my present myself."

They sat on the roof silently, drinking the strong alcohol in peace. She finally asked, "Did we throw a good party?"

"Best one I've been to," Stryker replied honestly. He asked, "You and Cage dating yet? Or are you waiting til some broad comes along and tries to make him one of those tabloid relationships?"

"Johnny and I are talking it out," Sonya said, giving no real answer. "Don't change the subject again."

"I didn't change the—"

"You hate your birthday. I heard you telling Sub-Zero."

Eyeing her, Stryker shrugged and drank from his mug. "So what if I do? This is still the best party I've had. Believe me, even the party that had a stripper went down the toilet. Fifteen years later I'm regretting that birthday fervently. Besides, I appreciate what you guys did. It's the thought that counts."

Sonya pursed her lips, but seemed to accept that would be all he would say on the topic. "Sorry about the lamp, by the way. It was meant to come as one piece, but Kabal, Jax, and Johnny got into a fight when we picked up the cake and the present somehow got in the middle of everything."

"It's fine," Stryker shrugged. "It gave us something to pick that glass shard out of Frost's toe. Even if she needs a tetanus shot now."

"Hmm," Sonya nodded in agreement.

They flinched as the doors below them burst open, pouring out light into the darkness of the city's night. They could see people tumbling out, and heard raucous laughter induced by kegs of alcohol. The two watched as the far-more sober people (Liu, Kitana, Nightwolf, and Sub-Zero among them most assuredly) helped corral the drunkards back into the bar, in order to keep them from doing something they would regret later.

"We have interesting friends," Sonya remarked.

"If you think 'interesting' is a strong enough word," Stryker nodded. He got up to his feet, wobbling drunkenly. "Damn, this tequila hits fast."

"What's the rule again?" Sonya added, also rising with a decided tilt to her stance. "One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor?"

"We're safe, then," Stryker patted her on the back. "We've only had . . . had . . . damn, how many times did I fill up our mugs?"

"I don't think I even finished mine," Sonya laughed heartily. "That's some good tequila!"

"Sure is!" Stryker agreed enthusiastically, throwing an arm around her shoulders both to help keep him upright and in a gesture of friendship. "C'mon, betcha everyone's wondering where we are!"

"That's right," Sonya slapped his back hard. "You're the birthday boy! They can't have a party without you! Let's go and show 'em how to party!"

The party, Stryker felt with definite conviction, had to have gone south somewhere. He couldn't quite remember where, though.

Nor could he remember where exactly he was. The last he could recall, he and Sonya had been making their way down the staircase back to the main room of the bar, tequila bottle in hand and the alcohol steadily being drunk.

Oh god, Stryker winced as his head throbbed. My head hurts. My head hurts so much. What did Sonya and I do? Did we do anything? That would be bad if we did. And—what the hell? My leg's in a cast?

He wiggled his foot. Yep, he felt the very familiar itch of a cast wrapped around his leg.

Scrunching his face as he expected pain, Stryker peeled one eye open. The light, while not unbearable, was bright with fluorescence. When he dared to breathe through his nose, he smelled the very fragrant scent of hospital-sterility.

Damn. Definitely was my birthday yesterday. Or was it the day before? How long have I been out?

"Stryker? Stryker, you awake?"

Braving the light, Stryker opened his other eye in order to see better. When his eyesight focused, he saw Sub-Zero hovering above him.

"Sub?" Stryker managed to speak, though his mouth was paper-dry. "What happened?"

The man seemed relieved to hear Stryker speaking, though he spoke with some regret, "You remember what you said about 'the night's still young?' Well, turns out you were right. You fell off a table as Bo was swinging a bat around to hit the piñata, and your leg intercepted the bat."

Stryker blinked. "Oh. Was that all?"

Sub-Zero snorted. "I skipped the part where you and Sonya finished off the bottle, got separated by Jax to keep you both from feeling each other up any further, and how you managed to convince Liu, in some way or another, to try a sip of your tequila. That is something Bo wants you to tell him how to do, though I think it'd be better for society and the realm if you kept that to yourself. If you remember, at least."

Blinking, Stryker tried to digest everything Sub-Zero told him. "'If you remember' is a pretty fair condition. I don't remember a damn thing. Where am I?"

"You're in a hospital. Nightwolf suspected alcohol poisoning along with your broken leg. It was probably a good thing you lost consciousness when you did: anymore alcohol and you would have been hospitalized for a lot longer than a week," Sub-Zero said. Unknown to Stryker, the man had tweaked his story the tiniest bit.

"It's been a week?" Stryker nearly screeched, though he instantly regretted that as his headache pounded.

"No, your birthday was last night," Sub-Zero assured him. "You have six more days of hospital food to look forward to."

"Grand," Stryker tried to focus on the ceiling tiles, failed, and decided to pretend his vision was perfectly normal the way it blurred around the edges and everything remained a dull color. "So, other than all that, I got off lucky?"

Sub-Zero bit his cheek, though Stryker couldn't see that from his state. "Yeah. Just get better, and you'll be back to the precinct before you could blink."

"Great," Stryker gave a weak thumbs-up, then closed his eyes. "I think I'm going to sleep now. Just for a little bit, that's all. Then you can . . . get me outta . . ."

Noticing the change in breathing, Sub-Zero gratefully stepped out of the hospital room and shut the door behind him. "He fell back asleep," he told the anxious group outside.

"Oh, good," Johnny sighed in relief.

"You didn't tell him about the accident, did you?" Mokap asked Sub-Zero worriedly.

"No," Sub-Zero shook his head. "He didn't even remember a thing about what happened at the bar after the tequila, much less how we moved the party to his loft."

"Speaking of, did you get that fixed?" Jax asked Raiden, bracing himself for the answer.

"Well, most of it is repaired," Raiden shrugged. "There are a few minor things, like a memento or a bed frame, plus one or two of the stairs in the staircase, and there's a possibility that his foundation's cracked. But I don't think he'll notice any of the fire damage or blood."

"Let's keep it that way," Sonya said, glaring at every person present to impress the necessity of silence. "If Stryker asks any of you, we did not go to his loft, we did not spill alcohol anywhere, and we most definitely did not encourage Raiden to use his lightning bolts to cook the hot dogs. Right?"

Nods of assent came from all around. Before everyone dispersed, Bo'Rai Cho added slyly, "And if anyone managed to witness how Stryker got Liu to try some of that tequila, I'd be most grateful. My training's not complete without some alcoholic-courage, you know."