The stain on the counter was growing.
Daniel glared down at the circular brown ring, annoyed. It had been here last week, and the week before that, and he’d hinted to the bartender a couple times already that you know, you might wanna get that cleaned up, folks these days will do a bad Yelp review over a lot less, but of course the guy ignored him and Johnny just sneered and called him a princess. Typical Johnny.
Who was running stupidly late.
This in and of itself was nothing new. Over the past few months they’d been meeting once a week for drinks at O’Malley’s, Daniel had discovered that Johnny Lawrence treated punctuality something like dental cleanings: beneficial on an abstract level but not something to be followed too strictly. It wasn’t uncommon for him to show up at the bar fifteen or even thirty minutes late, always with some bullshit excuse about traffic or chores or having to stay late with some kid at the dojo, when they both knew he’d likely just nodded off following his afternoon drinking binge.
Daniel tried not to mind it, mostly. Despite his behavior to the contrary, Johnny was a grown-ass man who could make his own (admittedly stupid) decisions. Daniel wasn’t his goddamned mother. If Johnny chose to show up to O’Malley’s late and already half-drunk, and Daniel chose to sit around waiting for him each time for reasons he’d really rather not think about, then that was on them.
Except today. He frowned, glancing sideways out the restaurant’s murky glass windows to the fading daylight outside. He and Johnny usually met around five. It was now inching closer to seven.
Johnny may have made it a habit to be late to everything, but he never completely forgot.
It was one of several pleasant surprises Daniel had learned about the older man in the past year, ever since Johnny sent him a text out of the blue one day inviting him out for drinks once more at the bar where they’d first bonded over REO Speedwagon and a mutual dislike of Ali’s husband. To this day, Daniel still had no idea why Johnny did it. He’d shown up the first time ready for a fight, for curses and insults and maybe a few punches before they were both thrown out of O’Malley’s forever.
Except it hadn’t ended up that way. Johnny had already ordered him a martini— Got you your pussy drink, LaRusso —and looked to be about halfway through his beer, shoulders relaxed and the crow’s feet around his eyes softened just a bit, and they hadn’t fought at all. Just shot the shit for almost three hours, talking about everything from Sam’s latest obsession with barre (“I have no idea, Johnny, it’s like yoga for ballerinas”) to the backed-up toilet Johnny had cleaned out last week (“There was shit on the ceiling. The fucking ceiling. Like, how the fuck do you even do that?”).
They hadn’t talked about any of the really important things, of course, not Robby or Cobra Kai or Miyagi-Do or Kreese or any of it. But it had been really nice, nicer than Daniel expected, certainly nicer than what he was getting at home (Sam’s awkward niceties, Anthony’s disdain, Amanda’s frosty silence).
Even as things escalated in their respective dojos, even as Daniel’s family withdrew further from him (or was it the other way around?) and Johnny watched his life implode for what was probably not even the second or third time in his life, they’d somehow kept up their weekly appointments. Sure, some days they barely spoke to a word to one another, too full of bubbling anger and resentment and lingering guilt. But other days they talked, not about anything important, and in doing so they did the only thing for each other that truly was important.
Now, months down the line, with Kreese gone and Cobra Kai firmly back in Johnny’s hands, with Robby dancing around a tentative relationship with his dad and Daniel and Amanda finally establishing relative amicability as they moved through their divorce, Daniel found himself looking forward to Thursday nights, to the familiar smoky smell and dusty lights of O’Malley’s, and Johnny Lawrence a solid presence at his side, his diamond-blue eyes and raspy voice grounding Daniel in quiet and balance even as they bickered about sports and cars and whether Van Damme or Seagal was the better martial artist.
He didn’t like to think about the safety it provided him, these conversations with Johnny. How, no matter how late Johnny ran, no matter how many millions of things he still had to get to on his to-do list between the divorce and Miyagi-Do and managing LaRusso Auto, Daniel always waited for him. The way he just felt so much more relaxed as he drove home afterward, like the constant anxious buzzing inside his head had been quieted somewhat by Johnny’s voice and solid closeness.
Now, though, he most definitely did not feel relaxed. A tight, dark ball of anxiety curled in his gut, turning over and squeezing tight every time he glanced up at the clock above the bar. 6:56. Where the hell was Johnny?
He’d never actually forgotten to show up, even early on when Daniel had assumed he’d get stood up at least a few times. But no, Johnny arrived each week as promised, sometimes late with his bullshit excuses, sometimes early and already chatting with the bartender. Somehow, for reasons Daniel had yet to figure out, Johnny considered their weekly drinks a priority. To have forgotten completely like this...Daniel didn’t like it.
And the goddamned stain was still there.
The sudden peal of his ringtone startled him so much he nearly fell off the stool. As the bartender cocked an eyebrow at him, Daniel recovered quickly and snatched the phone up from the counter. It had better be Johnny, preparing to grovel or at least offer to buy the first round of drinks after making Daniel wait so damned—
It wasn’t Johnny.
Daniel frowned down at the screen. He didn’t recognize the number, though the area code was local. Telemarketer, most likely, or one of those political survey people he always got suckered into spending half an hour on the line with. Why couldn’t he just hang up on them like everyone else? Probably because they always sounded so fucking earnest , all doe-eyed and cheerful like they actually believed the information they were collecting would be useful...
The phone kept ringing. He had maybe another five seconds before it went to voicemail—fuck it. Whether it was an emergency at work or a spam call, it’d serve Johnny right to walk in and be ignored for a few minutes while Daniel was on the phone.
A brief pause before the woman on the other line spoke, staticky like maybe the connection wasn’t great. “Yes, hi, could I speak with a mister, uh...Larso?”
A telemarketer, then. Daniel sighed. “It’s LaRusso. Listen, now’s not a good time—”
“Mr. Larso, this is Sergeant Birch with the Los Angeles Police Department. Were you the last registered owner of a 2009 Dodge Challenger, titled to a Jonathan Lawrence?”
Everything froze. Daniel blinked, the noise from the bar fading into a background buzz, the phone a heavy weight in his hand as that ball of anxiety in his gut turned suddenly to ice, ponderous and cold.
“Uh, yeah. Yes, that’s me. What’s this about, Officer?”
Another short pause. It couldn’t have been more than a couple seconds, Daniel knew that logically, yet still when Sergeant Birch answered it felt like he’d been waiting forever. A soft sigh came through the line, resigned yet determined, as if she were bracing herself.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
Daniel stared down at the phone as the screen darkened, unable to speak.
Johnny was dead.
Of course Sergeant Birch hadn’t said as much, just accident on the 405 and the car caught fire and how they’d pulled one body out of the wreckage, adult, male, burned beyond recognition. They’d found the smashed-up remains of a phone, though, and a singed wallet. With Johnny’s ID inside.
Johnny didn’t have an emergency contact or next of kin listed, apparently, so Birch had run the Challenger through the DMV and come up with Daniel. And now he was being asked to come down to the morgue to identify the body.
Johnny’s body. Which, apparently, was so mangled and burnt up they were having to extract DNA from his teeth.
Fuck. Oh, god.
“Hey.” It was the bartender, watching him with real concern. “Buddy, you okay? If you’re gonna throw up—”
Daniel lurched sideways off the stool and stumbled toward the door. His head spun. Johnny was dead. His corpse was lying on a cold slab down at the city morgue, burnt to a crisp, and Daniel was going to have to go down and look at it, and then he’d have to make funeral arrangements and let the kids at Cobra Kai know and call Robby and—
He bent over and vomited all over the floor.
Daniel looked all around at the tiny apartment: the trash can overflowing with empty beer bottles, the living room with the dented coffee table and stained old couch, the kitchen with the fridge that groaned like it was on its last legs.
He took all of it in, and felt nothing.
Yellow daylight leaked in through the grimy windows, turning everything a sickly pale color. He swallowed, stomach like a stone. When had he last eaten? Or slept?
It was mid-afternoon. Almost a full day since the...the phone call. Daniel felt like he was living in a dream, everything fuzzy and distant and strangely slowed down. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe if it was a dream then he’d wake up any moment now, and everything would be okay and Johnny wouldn’t be...
Well. It wasn’t a dream.
He’d only slept a couple hours last night, if that, too busy looking after Robby, making sure he wouldn’t hurt himself or do something equally stupid as he rode out his grief. And grief it was: Robby hadn’t even believed him at first, solidly convinced his father was just off on a bender or it was the wrong car or He’s out there, Mr. LaRusso, I just know it, he’s just ducking out of my life again because that’s all he’s ever been good at...
And then he’d promptly collapsed, sobbing, in Daniel’s arms. Daniel had stayed with him the whole night, holding him when he cried, listening when he got angry, bringing him warm tea and blankets when he got that blank-eyed, thousand-yard stare about him as the truth finally started to sink in.
Robby’s father was dead. And now they were both lost.
He blinked and looked up. Robby hovered just by the front door, hesitant as a stray animal. His mouth was pulled down in an unhappy grimace, everything from his slumped shoulders to his tired eyes broadcasting grief, dread, and pain. He looked absolutely awful, and Daniel sighed. “You don’t have to help me, Robby. I can do this alone.”
Truthfully, he wasn’t sure he could. Not after a full day of grief and numbness and zero sleep. He was running on fumes, he knew that on an abstract level, but that had never stopped him before. And it didn’t matter anyway. Robby was the one who needed to be taken care of right now.
Robby, who was now without a father. Because fucking Johnny had decided to drive his car right into the fucking freeway divider last night, drunk most likely, just so Daniel would have to clean up yet another one of his fucking messes.
“Th-That’s okay, Mr. LaRusso.” Robby took a deep breath, and if his smile was tiny, shaky, and utterly brittle, Daniel chose not to comment. The teenager stepped carefully across the threshold, slow and tentative as if afraid the little apartment around them might catch fire at any moment. That might have been better for everyone, honestly. Then, at least, they wouldn’t have to deal with organizing Johnny’s stuff. Then, at least, there’d be an end to it.
Robby squared his shoulders. “I think...I think my dad would’ve wanted me to do this,” he whispered, and god. Daniel turned away to hide the sudden rush of tears.
Johnny, do you see this? Do you see the man your son’s become?
“O-Okay.” He was mostly successful at keeping the tremor out of his voice. “Why...Why don’t you start in the kitchen, and I’ll take the bedroom? We don’t want anything going bad in the fridge.”
“Yeah.” Robby ducked his head and shuffled toward the kitchen. He looked like a dead man walking to the electric chair. Daniel sighed and was halfway down the hall to the bedroom when he heard a gasp.
It was high-pitched and shot through with despair, and he rushed back to the kitchen just in time to see Robby bent over the tiny dining table, holding what looked like an old Polaroid. Daniel couldn’t see what was on it, but the way the boy curled into himself with a breathless, pained noise was more than enough.
“He’s not dead!” The words burst from Robby like a wild thing, as he turned desperate brown eyes up at Daniel and he was so fucking young, holy shit, why did this have to happen—
“He’s not! ” Robby threw the photo down and backed up against the fridge, entire body trembling as his whole face twisted up in stubbornness and fury and pure, unadulterated grief. “He can’t be! He wouldn’t l-leave me, he can’t...he c-can’t...”
The dam broke, and Daniel lurched forward. “Robby,” he whispered, and didn’t know what he meant to do next—hug him, maybe, or just bundle him away somewhere safe and warm where he didn’t have to deal with this. Where neither of them had to deal with this loss, the huge Johnny-shaped hole torn across the landscape of Daniel’s heart, the memory of blue eyes and a warm laugh now nothing but a gaping wound bleeding free.
Fuck, Johnny was dead. He was dead and gone and he wasn’t coming back, and Daniel couldn’t...he didn’t...he’d never even gotten a chance to say...
Which was when the scraping noise sounded out. The sound of keys in the front door.
Daniel froze, staring as the lock scraped again, then flipped with a solid click. The door swung open, letting in a wash of bright sunlight, outlining a single, tired lone figure standing with his left arm cradled to his chest.
Johnny blinked at them for a moment, somehow still managing to wrinkle his nose in distaste even with one of his eyes darkened and swollen almost completely shut. “The hell’re you doing in my house?”
Silence. Behind them, the fridge groaned. Some yippy dog started up a racket before being silenced by a sharp, annoyed curse. And Daniel just. He stared at Johnny, unable to comprehend. What was going on? Why was he...
And then Robby wailed.
Johnny hadn’t been killed. He’d been robbed.
It took half an hour for them to calm Robby down. Daniel would never forget the image: Johnny holding his son in his arms as Robby sobbed into his chest, looking completely flummoxed as he stared at Daniel, everything about him desperate for an explanation. But Daniel hadn’t been able to help him. He’d hardly been able to speak.
It wasn’t much better now, as he tried to busy himself organizing the first aid kit on the kitchen counter while Johnny and Robby talked behind the closed bedroom door. He couldn’t hear much, only the low, unintelligible murmur of Johnny’s voice. Any other day, he might’ve been alarmed at how comforting it felt. Today, he just closed his eyes and let himself bask in it, the knowledge that Johnny was safe , that he hadn’t been taken from them.
Not that he was about to tell Johnny any of that, not after what he’d put them through. Because if the world hadn’t known before just how much of a giant fucking idiot Johnny Lawrence was, it did now. He’d been jumped outside a hardware store down in Beverly Hills—why he’d driven all the way down there Daniel would never know, just another notch in the bedpost of Things Johnny Lawrence Does That Make No Damned Sense—and they’d done a number on him, three or four guys hitting him completely without warning. He’d gone down before he was even fully aware of it, and they’d beaten the shit out of him, then taken his wallet, phone, and car keys.
One of them must’ve taken the Challenger for a joy ride afterward, with its fiery ( poetically just ) end. The end that Sergeant Birch and the fire department had been called in for. The end that resulted in the phone call that had turned Daniel’s life upside down.
Of course, Johnny could have saved them all the stress and worry and grief if he’d just been a little less fucking stubborn, a little less mired in his hatred of technology that somehow convinced him he could just get up, brush himself off, and walk the eighteen goddamned miles back to Reseda. God forbid he stop to borrow someone’s phone on the way, or to poke his head into an ER or a police station. No, Johnny Lawrence was, apparently, the Real Fucking Deal when it came to not asking for help, leaving his friends and loved ones— Daniel, Daniel, Daniel —spinning out into a black hole of grief and despair.
When he was done with Robby, they were going to have words.
As if on cue, the bedroom door opened with a soft click. Johnny stepped out, looking like he’d aged ten years, and whatever expression Daniel wore made him shake his head. “He’s asleep,” he murmured, “and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Daniel nodded, watching as Johnny dragged himself down the hallway into the kitchen. He couldn’t seem to stop staring, drinking in the other man as if seeing him for the first time: the cuts and bruises from the mugging stood out, of course, and that shiner made him look like absolute shit, but underneath that it was still Johnny with his stupid blond hair and sharp nose and tired blue eyes, blinking slowly down at the bandages and antiseptic wipes laid out on the counter as if he had no idea what they were. “Uh. Those’re for me, I guess.”
He sounded utterly exhausted, which was, Daniel told himself, the only reason he didn’t lay into him right then and there. Instead he cleared his throat, and thought his voice mostly remained steady as he said, “Yeah. You want some help?”
He moved before Johnny could answer, ripping open one of the wipes. Johnny sighed and slumped onto the barstool next to the counter. He had to be hurting something awful to not even try to tease Daniel as he carefully cleaned a cut just above his right eye, crusted over with day-old blood. Magnanimous, Daniel let it go.
Thankfully, despite how vicious those punks had been, Daniel didn’t notice any injuries that would require hospitalization. Johnny favored his left arm but it looked to be mostly bruising, not a fracture, probably from throwing it up to protect his face. It hadn’t worked, obviously, judging from the black eye and the cuts on his cheek, but Daniel counted his blessings. Taking Johnny to the ER now, separating him from Robby...it wouldn’t be pretty.
He poked at one of the cuts on Johnny’s cheek and the older man hissed. “ Easy, LaRusso.”
“Sorry.” He threw the wipe aside and picked up a new one. “Thought pain didn’t exist for you or whatever.”
“It sure does n— ow, fuck, will you stop? ” Johnny seized his wrist, glaring at Daniel with hard blue eyes. “Jesus, you’re shit at this.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have to be shit at it if you’d just stopped at a fucking hospital, would I?”
“I don’t need it, nothing’s broken—”
“That’s not the fucking point, Johnny!”
His voice, sharp and furious, bounced off the walls of the tiny little place. Daniel froze, listening, but when after a few moments no sound came from the bedroom he turned his glare back to Johnny who was watching him wide-eyed, like he hadn’t actually expected Daniel to yell.
Which, what the hell else could he do? He’d gotten a phone call from the goddamned police saying Johnny was dead. He’d had to break that news to Johnny’s kid, had to look after Robby and call the funeral home and get all Johnny’s effects in order, all while that terrible soul-sucking emptiness scraped him out hollow and pulled in every bit of light left in his life. The entire last twenty-four hours he’d been a rock, a foundation, solid and unshakeable to everyone who cared to look while underneath he was breaking, shattered into a million shuddering pieces and he just wanted to curl up and cry because Johnny was—he was—
“Whoa, LaRusso.” The fingers on his wrist tightened, real concern on Johnny’s face. “Daniel, don’t—”
And that’s what did it: his name on Johnny’s lips, like the older man saw him as an actual person for once, saw him for who he was and cared about him and loved...
“Oh shit, no, no—” He might’ve laughed at the clear panic in Johnny’s voice but Daniel was too busy trying to contain the hiccuping sobs, great heaving things that shuddered up from deep in his chest like he was trying to expel his very soul. And god, maybe that’s what it was: his spirit, his very being so inexorably tied to Johnny’s now that if one disappeared then the other was just left, lost and floating and so fucking empty—
“Daniel,” Johnny said, worried, insistent, and Daniel snapped his head up, glaring at him through tears.
“You were dead ,” he hissed, and had the satisfaction of seeing Johnny flinch back as if struck. “For the entire past day I thought you were a burnt-up body at the fucking morgue . Do you understand? Do you have any fucking idea ...Johnny. I had to tell Robby. ”
Johnny swallowed and opened his mouth but Daniel wasn’t done, reaching forward to jab his finger against the older man’s chest so hard he nearly toppled off the barstool. “And then you just come waltzing in here like nothing happened, like everything’s okay, like hearing about the car accident didn’t fucking destroy me and you just don’t do that, Johnny! You don’t do that to the people who love you!”
And, fuck, there it was: the truth Daniel had been too scared to examine closely all these months. The reason why Thursdays had fast become the best part of his week, why over the past couple of months he’d been getting more careful about how he dressed, or how closely he scooted his stool next to Johnny’s at O’Malley’s. The reason why, no matter how late Johnny ran, Daniel always waited for him.
And god, any other day he would’ve panicked. Apologized, or laughed it off, or turned tail and run out the door in the wake of admitting something so goddamned stupid. But today, Daniel only leveled his glare at Johnny, face hot and vision blurred with tears. Johnny, who looked completely blindsided, staring at him like Daniel had suddenly proclaimed himself an alien from Jupiter. And maybe he had; maybe it was entirely off-script and wrong to feel these things for Johnny, but he did. And goddamnit, after everything Johnny had put him through over the last day, he wasn’t taking it back.
Johnny could get mad, could choose to unleash a furious rejection in punches and cutting words, but Daniel wasn’t taking any of it back. He was here, he was ready. Johnny would just have to fucking deal.
But Johnny didn’t attack him. Didn’t say anything, really. He just stared at Daniel, surprise and shock still written clear across his face, but as Daniel watched something shifted then, just a brief flicker through Johnny’s eyes before he slammed the shutters closed but Daniel caught it, he fucking caught it.
Johnny turned away then, snatching up one of the bandages. “Go home, LaRusso, you’ve had a long day,” he muttered. “I got it from here.”
His shoulders were hunched up, gaze cut away to a corner of the living room. It was a defense if Daniel had ever seen one, a clear out, and he could take it, he knew: could shrug and walk out and leave Johnny to stew like he should have, like he deserved.
But Daniel was done waiting.
He straightened up, only vaguely aware of the drying tear-tracks on his cheeks—god, he was a mess, yesterday’s clothes, bags under his eyes, snot everywhere but Johnny didn’t care about that, he knew, it wasn’t disgust that had the older man leaning back on the stool even as Daniel approached him to lay a hand on his shoulder, swallowing hard.
“I don’t want to go,” he said, staring straight into wide, ice-blue eyes. “And I don’t think you want me to either.”
And he believed it. It was clear in the careful way Johnny watched him, cautious but not angry. In the way Johnny’s shoulder remained relaxed under his fingers. In how the older man’s gaze flickered once more to the door, just one last consideration, one last offering of a way out, before he turned back to Daniel and set his jaw, a decision made.
With only a little hesitation Johnny’s hand came up to cradle his hip, and Daniel couldn’t even be mad at seeing that infuriating smirk, too busy trying to breathe through the swelling rush of happiness and hope and right as Johnny cocked his head and said, “So sure of yourself, are you, LaRusso?”
He grinned and moved closer, smile only widening when Johnny just shifted to make room and he was so close now, his face taking up almost all of Daniel’s vision and he was still such a goddamned mess with the bruising and the shiner but still it was Johnny, it was and always would be Johnny.
“I don’t hear you saying no,” Daniel said, and the soft chuckle that got out of Johnny was both nonchalant and entirely, crucially not.
“Still plenty of time,” he said, and Daniel rolled his eyes.
“I swear, Lawrence, I will kick you in the face—”
Which was when Johnny hummed and kissed him.
The world didn’t explode. The lights didn’t flicker and fireworks didn’t go off overhead, yet still Daniel’s head spun as he grabbed Johnny to pull him closer, slotting their mouths together, feeling the fresh sting of tears as they finally came together as they always should have. Johnny tasted...well, rather awful, to be honest, between yesterday’s beers and getting a tooth knocked out and not having brushed his teeth all day, but Daniel just...didn’t care. Couldn’t care, not when Johnny made a low sound in the back of his throat and surged forward to deepen the kiss, tugging Daniel forward almost into his lap as the stool creaked beneath them and that goddamned fridge kept groaning in the background.
It was awkward and uncomfortable and absolutely fucking perfect and Daniel sighed into Johnny’s mouth, felt something deep inside him finally shift sideways and settle at the feeling of Johnny’s hands at his hips, of Johnny’s chest beneath his hands and his lips pressed to his own. God, it was...he couldn’t imagine being anywhere but here.
It’d taken a terrible fiery crash on a freeway, a life-changing phone call, and twenty-four hours of utter, soul-shattering grief, but Daniel LaRusso was finally exactly where he wanted to be.
Without thinking about it he ran his palm up under Johnny’s shirt, seeking skin, but then Johnny abruptly hissed and drew back, real pain written across his features. “Shit, ow. ”
“Sorry, sorry.” Daniel drew back but didn’t go far, running his fingers down Johnny’s arm, careful to avoid the scrapes even as he marveled at the goosebumps that rose in his wake. “I...I want...”
“Yeah.” Johnny shifted beneath him a little, just enough so Daniel could get more comfortable and it really wasn’t a great position, the barstool was tiny and probably wouldn’t take their weight for much longer but Daniel just couldn’t quite bring himself to care right now, too busy leaning down to rest his forehead against Johnny’s shoulder with a sigh.
Johnny hummed beneath him, a low firm rumble as a warm palm settled at the small of his back. “Not now, though. I’m like one giant fucking bruise.”
“Yeah? And whose fault is that?”
Daniel laughed at that but didn’t move. Johnny smelled even worse than he tasted but he couldn’t seem to find the energy to lift his head, the incessant buzzing and cold numbness inside his head finally settling into blissful silence as Johnny’s thumb caressed the warm skin at the base of his spine.
“Thanks,” Johnny said then, breaths washing warm over Daniel’s hair. “For, you know. Robby. Plus everything else.” A pause, and then, quieter: “And sorry.”
“Yeah.” Groping blindly, Daniel found a rough, callused hand and squeezed. “Sure.”
Another brief silence before Johnny sighed, and if he’d sounded tired before, it was absolutely exhausted now. “You should stay.”
“The bed’s taken.” It wasn’t a refusal, though, and Johnny must have read into that because Daniel heard more than saw the smile in his voice.
“I dunno, the couch is pretty comfy.”
“Johnny.” Daniel did lift his head at that to frown at the piece of furniture in question, with its sagging cushions and mysterious stains. “I don’t think we’ll fit.”
“We’ll figure it out.” And there it was again, that stupid smug smile. And they were going to regret this in the morning, Daniel just knew they would, they weren’t young anymore and that couch definitely was not designed to fit two full-grown men overnight, but. But he couldn’t think about any of that right now, not with Johnny grinning up at him with his dumb blue eyes and his stupid hair, and Daniel just sighed and tipped forward to kiss him, letting himself sink into the feeling of safety and home.
We’ll figure it out.
It sounded like a promise.