Author's Note: Another bribe fic, sort of. This one's for CrystalOfEllinon, who as always is hilarious and devious.
I'm tempted to copy/paste my "Warning: NOT RACIST" disclaimer, but I think I said it all in "Best of the Best." Only in this case, we have two guys who are often overshadowed by their white-guy partners/counterparts/blood brothers, not to mention two guys who are often slashed with said counterparts. I really couldn't pass up the opportunity for cheap humor.
Rating: T for spots of bad language.
Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are the property of Hasbro Inc. This incarnation of Kato, as well as all associated characters and concepts, are based on the 2011 Green Hornet film released by Columbia Pictures. As ever, these are used purely for entertainment purposes, and out of respect and love for the original properties; no copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being derived from this exercise. "Pork: The Other White Meat" is an advertising slogan concocted by the agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987, and is parodied here for humorous purposes only.
Partner: The Other White Guy
by Totenkinder Madchen
Any community will, by its very nature, contain secrets. This is because a community is made up of people, and people are not wired to cooperate fully with each other: when forced to behave as part of a group, they will always harbor quiet resentments and agendas. Over time, in response to those little resentments and difficulties, the community will begin to develop its own ways of letting off the steam. Subcultures will form, allowing people to meet and secretly confide what they think but can't, for the community's good, express aloud or in public.
The criminal world contains many such subcultures and meeting places. Other communities will simply look down on someone who speaks their mind, but among criminals, such a person is normally to be silenced by any means necessary. Members of these little groups within the underworld community must be careful to meet only at the special spots where they will be safe, and to express themselves only to other people whom they are certain share their sentiments. To do otherwise would be asking for trouble. They meet in these places, they share their gripes about the other people they're forced to get along with, and the community survives for another day.
What does this mean?
In short, it meant that on a warm July afternoon, a booth in the Brooklyn Chinatown's Shanghai Inn was being shared by the Green Hornet's partner-chauffeur Kato and the Cobra ninja Storm Shadow. Both were pissed off.
The latter wasn't Chinese, but that was okay; neither was the food. The alcohol made up for it, though, and both men had had a little more than they technically ought to. They could handle it-anyone in their lines of work had to be able to knock back a few shots to take the edge off some pretty frustrating days—but one of the side effects of spending too much time with Jack, Jim, and Jose is that you start talking enough for all three of them.
"To a woman," Kato repeated, setting down his glass with a thunk. "To a woman he said this. And he didn't see anything wrong with it." He reached for the bottle, but Storm Shadow had already emptied it. "It was the ultimate class versus crass. He has no idea how to behave with a beautiful, intelligent lady." He thumped the glass on the table again for emphasis. "He's like my brother sometimes, but he's like . . . the brother you don't want anyone to meet."
"It could be worse," Storm Shadow replied, signaling the waitress for a refill. She grabbed the items quickly: at the Shanghai Inn, they knew the signs of a long day when they saw them. "At least your partner isn't actively trying to kill you."
The waitress's eyes widened at that, but both men ignored it. If new hirees at the Inn didn't know the place was a criminal hangout when they got the job, they learned pretty fast. She set down the bottle and scurried away, shaking her head.
"You have a partner?" Kato said curiously. Storm Shadow didn't talk about himself much.
Storm snorted. "In a manner of speaking. You might call him my brother, too, except he's as much my brother as yours is yours."
"Oh. He's your stupid white guy?"
"Stupid sometimes. Depressingly un-stupid at others." Storm rolled up one sleeve, displaying an impressive scar that cut deep into his forearm. The waitress had gone back behind the bar, but she was eavesdropping rather blatantly; she wasn't close enough to catch every word, but everything she could hear was clearly alarming her. Damn newbies. "Did this with a tanto eight months ago," he continued. "I had to stitch it up myself in an alley and almost passed out from blood loss."
Kato uncapped the fresh bottle and poured them both a refill. "Aren't you supposed to be a ninja?"
"Unfortunately, so's he."
"One of those Red Ninjas you're always complaining about? I keep telling you, it can't be that hard to spot them if they're wearing red."
"No, not a damn Red Ninja. They wouldn't accept gaijin anyway. Nobody really does." Storm frowned. "Except the Arashikage."
"You mean-" Kato took a mouthful of his drink, stopped, and eyed the other man through his black mask. "You didn't. You taught him?"
When Storm nodded, Kato almost dropped his glass. "Bái chī! And he learned? Mine can barely remember to retract the machine guns before he parks the car!"
"There's your problem," Storm pointed out a little nastily. "I've got a nemesis; you've got a pet." He paused, his glass half-way to his mouth. "And a car with machine guns?"
"My 'pet' has one hell of a bankroll," Kato responded. Smug? Who, him? "But seriously, don't call him that. He means well . . . I think. He's been getting slightly less of a moron recently, and he's paying me more for my services, too. Anyway, only I'm allowed to complain about my stupid white guy." He finally took a swallow of his drink. "You get to complain about yours. Go."
"Family drama," Storm muttered. "He got my uncles' nod to lead the clan over me, all because he was Mister Moral Principle and wouldn't practice by killing animals." That got a raised eyebrow from Kato and a muttered comment about early warning signs of psychopathy, but Storm didn't exactly give a damn. "Then my eldest uncle gets killed. Wasn't me, but it was set up to look like me, so my brother jumps to conclusions-"
"-doesn't jump very far, by the sound of it-"
"Shut up. You said I could complain about mine. Anyway, I've been hunting for my uncle's killer ever since . . . and okay, part of it has meant joining a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, my sword-brother's hooked up with—of course—a special antiterrorism unit, and now we spend every other week trying to murder each other. Oh, and technically speaking I'm the only one of us who's actually working as a bona fide secret assassin, and he still gets laid more than I do. Pass the pretzels."
Kato passed them. "Sounds like an abusive relationship, but I still say mine's worse."
"Has he tried to kill you?" Storm said, raising his own mask just enough to slip a pretzel under it.
"Well, not on purpose . . ." Kato considered, fingers drumming on the tabletop. "There was that one time he insisted I drive us right into an obvious trap. We wound up getting buried alive, in our car. And he blamed me for trying to save him."
"Granted, mine's never done that."
"And-" the shorter man slammed his fist down on the table, knocking over the bottle and glasses. Storm hastily caught them and set them upright again. "I'm posing as his executive assistant. So one day, he makes me go fetch him coffee. So he can hit on the lady. And because I'm a professional, I have to do it. He may be my partner, but he sure as hell doesn't respect me!"
Storm winced. As someone currently at the whim of Cobra Commander, he definitely understood what it felt like to follow humiliating orders. On the other hand . . . "So your white guy is your partner as well as your fake boss?" he said, pouring himself yet another refill. "I can beat that. I have my brother trying to kill me . . ." He drew out the suspense for effect " . . . and I have a mad terrorist eating caviar on crackers and telling me to fetch him another target shaped like my brother."
"Who's trying to kill you."
"Who's trying to kill me."
There was a moment of silence. Kato considered the other man's words.
" . . . Mine's still worse."
The conversation repeated—Variations on the Theme of Bitching, by Arashikage & Kato—for most of the evening. The Shanghai Inn was typically occupied by mobsters, yakuza and plain old bad motherfuckers, but that night, nobody dared approach them. One was in white, one was in black, and both were shitfaced and pissed off.
Long after midnight, the two of them finally paid their tab and prepared to leave. Kato had arrived in an auxiliary Black Beauty, the abovementioned car with machine guns, but he hadn't actively trained up his poison resistance and he was having some issues with the concept of "vertical" versus "horizontal." Storm Shadow threw the other man's arm over his shoulder for support and longingly eyed his own transportation. It was beaut, a souped-up motorcyle that he'd appropriated after its previous owner had suffered a sudden case of spontaneous decabipation . . . decapodnation? Decimation? Head-falling-off-itis.
Oh-kay, too much Jack at the end there.
He would be able to come back for his pride and joy in the morning, though. The Shanghai Inn people knew which side their bread was buttered on, and they'd take good care of it for him. And at least he got to drive the machine gun car now.
As he poured the soused Kato into the passenger seat, the waitress who had served them earlier in the evening emerged from the restaurant's side door, pulling on her coat. Her eyes widened when she saw Storm Shadow pulling on Kato, and for a moment, she looked as if she might dart back into the restaurant. Storm hoped she wouldn't panic or scream; the downside of frequenting a place as a known criminal made it all the easier for the staff to lose their nerve when dealing with you. He poked Kato hard in the side, eliciting a drunken but definitely alive-sounding groan from the other martial artist, and raised an eyebrow. See? His expression said. He's alive. You can go about your business now.
The waitress relaxed. Instead of taking off, though, she moved cautiously towards the two of them. Storm kept an eye on her while he finished making sure Kato was buckled in and filched the keys from the man's pocket. She didn't move like an assassin, but there was something about her expression that he couldn't quite place.
"You know," she said cautiously, tucking her hands into her pockets and ducking her head slightly, "I've been having problems with my boyfriend, too. It sometimes really does feel like they're trying to kill you. But-" she eyed Kato, who had slumped forward against the seatbelt and was drooling slightly. "Believe me, this isn't going to help. Here, let me give you this."
She thrust a business card into the surprised Storm's hand. "She's a counselor," the waitress confided. "She specializes in all kinds of relationships . . . you know . . . whatever your preference is, I mean. Even if you and your brother are . . . really close."
And she walked off into the night, her head held high and a spring in her step, confident in having done the right thing. Meanwhile, Storm Shadow just stared down at the business card and wondered if someone had added LSD to his drink when he wasn't looking.
"You know," he said to the snoring Kato, "now that I think about it, it does sound kind of suspect."