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It's Good To Be King

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It was just after 3am. The courtyard of the Reseda Heights apartment building was flooded in a yellow glow, casting everything in synthetic sunshine that bore little resemblance to daylight. Johnny Lawrence peered out at this dismal tableau through the blinds of his living room window, but his mind was elsewhere.

 

He drew in a deep sigh. Under usual circumstances he’d grab another beer, rinse and repeat until all his uncomfortable thoughts faded to black. Sure, he’d wake up face down on his bed or his floor (did it matter?), but then the thoughts would take a backseat to his headache, and usually sink down into the general pool of self-loathing he constantly harbored, urgency forgotten. This, though...this he wanted to ponder, chewing it over in his mind, memory hovering over the events of the last half-day the way fingertips ghosted a mosquito bite they were trying not to scratch. Hell of a time to suddenly discover feelings for your childhood karate rival, John. 

 

There wouldn’t be any more sleep for him tonight. He’d slept already, after, but an hour of fevered dreaming had only made it all worse. He had to try to sort this out. Long years of self-hatred and regret had taught Johnny one thing- if he wanted to actually solve a problem, there was no point in lying to himself about it. Sure, he usually preferred escapism, but if he needed solutions he had to be real. Internally, at least. He took a deep breath, and began laying it out.

 

*****

 

It’s good to be king, if just for a while

To be there in velvet, yeah, to give ‘em a smile

It’s good to get high and never come down

It’s good to be king of your own little town

 

Yeah, the world would swing if I were king

 

Can’t help it if I

Still dream time to time

 

*****

 

One. He was attracted to guys. Well, at least he was attracted to Daniel LaRusso. He might’ve noticed before that other dudes looked good, but he’d never wanted to throw them to the mat and have his way with them. Certainly he’d never felt that way during a competition (and every match was a competition). Suddenly it had hit him hard enough to throw him off his game, hard enough to act on it .

 

Two. LaRusso was attracted to him. This thought was dizzying in its intensity. Some madness had led him to reach out, and against all logic, LaRusso had reached back . Maybe it wasn’t any big deal, maybe it was just the alcohol and the residual high of a really good match. You’ve had plenty of good matches that didn’t end in grinding on the floor, John. And doesn’t alcohol usually make people honest, at least before it makes them pass out? He shook his head. He’d put a pin in that one.

 

Three. Things had gotten physical. In his school days it would’ve been called “making out”, but that felt too crass and too much an understatement, all at once. Their collision had no business being measured in bases and belt notches. Johnny wasn’t torn up because they’d kissed and touched, but because it had been so damned intense . THAT definitely wasn’t the alcohol. In his experience, drinking led to forgetful, sloppy experiences. The alcohol might have facilitated this, but once it started, it felt almost exalted, like something sacred. Not that Johnny knew much about that. What he did know was that he’d had a lot of sex, but their few minutes of sharing space had taken him apart more than any of the rest of it.

 

Four . He’d wanted more, and he’d offered more. Fuck, as soon as he’d gotten home and locked himself in, he’d rushed to his bedroom. His cheeks burned thinking about it. Normally he’d only think about getting off, fulfilling a biological need. If he imagined anything, it was his favorite photos from the “well-loved” swimsuit edition he was too lazy to search for. The best descriptor for it would be mundane

 

It hadn’t been mundane this time. He’d come home still hung up on the ruined look on LaRusso’s face when he’d left him panting on the floor. It made something like hope rise up in his chest, like LaRusso might actually take him up on his offer. Like maybe there’d be a knock on the door any minute. He’d stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes, allowing his mind to drift into fantasy, imagining what might’ve shaken out if he hadn’t left. His hands ( LaRusso’s hands, he wished) wandered over his body slowly, mapping out ridges and valleys. They lingered at his neck, chest, hip, where he’d imagine lips or tongue instead of fingertips. When he finally took his hard length in hand, he tried to go slow, to draw it out. Still, it ended faster than he wanted, as he gave a strangled cry against his own fingertips. He wanted to chide himself for being such a girl about it, but that thought couldn’t pierce the haze of satisfaction in which he was floating. He’d managed to clean up and collapse back in bed, falling into what started as an incredibly restful sleep.

 

His cheeks flushed again, thinking back to his dream. He was back in high school, King Cobra, ex-degenerate. It was some alternate timeline, a dream he’d had before. In this world, he was living every hope he’d had for his senior year, every hope that shattered when a certain doe-eyed Jersey hothead showed up. He dreamed it sometimes, and daydreamed it other times- embarrassing, sure, but he couldn’t be blamed for it. Wasn’t it natural to wish himself back to the time when his life hadn’t been anything but towering potential? In the dream, Ali was back on his arm, he was scoring top marks in his classes, and the 1984 All-Valley Under 18 Tournament first place trophy sat where it belonged on the shelf in his room- one of a perfect set of three he’d never actually seen. 

 

*****

Yeah I’ll be king when dogs get wings

 

Can’t help it if I

Still dream time to time

 

It’s good to be king and have your own world

It’s nice to make friends, it’s good to meet girls

A sweet little queen who can’t run away

It’s good to be king whatever it pays

 

*****

 

The dream wasn’t a chapter of his life he’d ever actually lived, but it was as familiar as memory. He knew immediately that something about it was different this time. He still walked his high school hallways, still flanked by the other Cobras. All eyes were on him, the girls all wanting him, the guys wanting to be him. Teachers stopped and smiled approvingly as he passed. There was Ali, eyes shining as he walked toward her, looking expectant, getting ready to fall into step next to him...and he pushed past her, going for someone a few lockers down. 

 

His hands grasped a skinny set of shoulders and pushed them back against the locker doors. His lips quirked up in a signature smirk as he looked down at LaRusso, who met his eyes directly and gave a crooked, cocky grin back. Johnny’s fingers traced his cheekbone, which in this world he’d never marred with bruises. It felt achingly real, but he knew it wasn’t when he leaned down and captured the other boy’s lips in a searing kiss. He spoke all the tension that crackled between them into that kiss, and LaRusso gave back as good as he got. Johnny braced his arms against the lockers and pinned him there with his hips, pressing their bodies together as Daniel (Daniel, he breathed) slung one hand over his arm and threaded the other into his hair. He sank his teeth into Daniel’s lower lip with a gentle firmness, drawing a sound from him that made heat curl pleasantly in his gut. When they parted, he slung an arm around Daniel’s shoulders, with an answering arm snaking around his own waist, and they walked off down the hall together, the school cheering them on with no hint of mockery.

 

The scene changed then, and Johnny was standing in front of a class of karate students, back to the present day. The dojo wasn’t Cobra Kai- it was nicer, better decorated, with newer mats and some new-agey indoor-outdoor setting. The students were paired off, drilling punches and blocks. He saw his Cobras- Miguel, Aisha, Hawk- among faces he didn’t know. He saw Robby, Robby who hated him, Robby who’d never shown any interest in karate, moving as fluidly as any of them, catching his eye briefly and smiling with no hint of bitterness. He felt a strong hand reach out and thread fingers with his. He turned his head to see Daniel standing next to him, crisp white gi mirroring his sleeveless black one. He was looking out over the class with an expression of pride, one that remained in place as he turned toward Johnny, his eyes speaking back everything Johnny was feeling. Meeting those eyes felt like a bolt of lightning to the chest, and Johnny had woken up in a cold sweat, sitting bolt upright in the bed. He’d walked stiffly to the bathroom, splashing cold water on his face, then robotically migrated to the kitchen and put coffee on. That’s how he’d gotten here, the mug in his hand cooling off just too much to be worth drinking, trying to work out what the hell was happening in his mind.

 

Five . He was totally, entirely gone over Daniel LaRusso. 

 

Johnny’s eyes closed, squeezing shut as he studiously ignored the pricking sensation at their corners. He closed them harder, and it subsided. The dream was ridiculous. Regretting lost decades of unrecognized feelings was ridiculous. Making a scene like that, publicly in the halls of West Valley High in the 80s? Someone would’ve been killed over it, or at least beaten within an inch of their life. Even more laughable was the flash-forward, and everything it implied- from a strong, healthy relationship with his estranged son to that look in LaRusso’s dark eyes. The hope he’d felt earlier was gone. LaRusso was married, happy, successful. He might’ve slipped up temporarily, but at best it had been the alcohol making it seem like a good idea to slum it with his old rival. At worst, maybe he was trying to make a fool of Johnny. It hadn’t felt that way, it really hadn’t, but the dream had subsided and left stark reality. LaRusso had no reason to risk the life he’d built, certainly not just to get off with his ex-nemesis. It didn’t even bear consideration that he’d want anything beyond that. Johnny would be better off sticking to dreams.

 

At least they didn’t have to cross paths too often. Maybe some of this would subside before their next meeting. Johnny breathed out, hard. Maybe this would go away in time. Maybe today he’d find something to do to take his mind off of this mess. 

 

His next thought stopped him cold. Tomorrow (today?) was tournament day. The 2018 All-Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament, sponsored by LaRusso Auto. Shit.

 

*****

 

Excuse me if I

Have some place in my mind

 

Where I go time to time