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valley drop

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Something in Daniel gets nervous when Johnny touches him in their demonstration fights. It wakes up and goes tight and watchful.

At first he thinks it's only old instincts at work, his body reacting to the other man like they're still on opposite sides. They've inflicted so much pain on one another over the years. A lingering vigilance, this extended adjustment period – it's only to be expected.

He decides to ignore it.

“Today we're working on cripple wheels,” says Johnny. “It similar to a fireman's carry, except instead of helping your buddy home from a party, you're incapacitating your enemy in a painful and humiliating way.”

“Let's maybe focus less on the pain and humiliation parts, okay,” says Daniel. He's got his fingers folded over his hips, tapping. He doesn't remember why he agreed to this particular lesson plan. But the kids are all watching with rapt interest so – right. For the kids.

Johnny beckons him forward with the flicker of two fingers.

“Right, so what's going to happen here is Sensei LaRusso is going to make a pathetic attempt for my solar-plexus,” says Johnny, and Daniel obeys. They go through the motions slowly.

Johnny narrates everything he does to Daniel's body with a calm dispassion that works its way under Daniel's nerves and hooks in deep: wedging Daniel's attacking arm between their chests; Johnny sliding his blocking arm up to grab the back of his neck in a firm grip. His free hand gripping the meat of Daniel's upper thigh; the lift.

He plays Daniel like a fucking accordion.

He lifts and bends Daniel and the effort doesn't show itself in his voice or in any tremor of his arms. Even though it's a demonstration, even though they're being careful, Daniel still feels bruised for the rest of the day.

Matters are not much better when he's the one directing the demonstration. It's unsettling in its own completely unique way.

“This is what's called a spinning top throw,” says Daniel. “With this defensive move, you use your opponent's own force against him.”

“Or her,” adds Johnny with emphasis, giving Sam a significant look, like he's won a point on Daniel. “You can throw a girl down to the ground too.”

“Please don't throw any girls to the ground,” says Daniel, moving to stand in front of Johnny. He gives the other man a nod, and Johnny throws a middle punch; Daniel grabs his wrist and pulls it down, gets a leg behind one of Johnny's and uses his free hand on his elbow to spin him to the grass.

The kids murmur, and he suppresses the flicker of smug pleasure. He must not do it quick enough, because Johnny rolls his eyes from his position on the ground.

Daniel offers him a hand, which Johnny ignores in favor of a handspring.

The kids murmur again and now Daniel is the one trying not to roll his eyes. “Flashy move,” he says quietly as they reset their positions, “but how's your back feel after?”

“Backs hurt, that's what they do.”

Daniel says more loudly, “Okay, let me take you through that move again, this time more slowly so you can see the steps.”

He puts Johnny on the ground four more times.

The truth is, he's always liked this part of karate: how he can manipulate a person's body against physics and their own intentions. It's a discomfiting feeling and not something he likes to think about unless he's squaring off against Johnny.

And sometimes not even then.

If showing the kids new moves tests him, discussing which ones to teach is a full trial of endurance.

“Spearing through,” calls Johnny from his desk. He's got his feet kicked up and is drinking a beer. Where did he get it? Did he bring them in a backpack? Has he installed a mini fridge somewhere Daniel has yet to discover on the premises?

They've divided the small side room at the dojo between them like freshman dorm roommates, stopping just short of drawing an actual line down the middle of the floor. Of course, it all actually still belongs to Daniel. Johnny's merely an occupying force, a quartered soldier. An infringement on Daniel's constitutional rights.

If any of Johnny's mess migrates over to Daniel's side, he's evicting him.

“Spearing through,” he says skeptically from his position on the floor where he has been attempting to meditate.

“Yeah, it's the one—”

“I know which one it is. I'm trying to decide what the appeal is here for you: punching me in the dick in front of a dozen teenagers or getting to pick me up again.”

Johnny says nothing and after a moment Daniel opens his eyes. He runs his words back over in his head; had that came out wrong?

Johnny takes another drink and says to his magazine, “Definitely the dick punching.”

“Yeah,” says Daniel, dry-mouthed. “Figured.”

“Drunk swallow,” says Johnny, and spins Daniel around as he drops to one knee, dragging him down along for the ride.

“Topple a folding screen,” says Daniel, and wraps his hand over Johnny's jaw: directing and in complete control.

“Maybe we should be focusing more on moves they can actually use in the tournament,” says Daniel one evening.

They are both in their workout gear in the main room, trying to decide on the next day's lesson plan between stretches. He doesn't know why they don't plan ahead more, save themselves from long evenings like this one. But if he'd had to guess what running a dojo with Johnny Lawrence would be like before this, flying by the seat of the pants would be exactly it.

“Any move can be used in the tournament, if the judges decide they like you enough,” says Johnny.

Daniel gives him a narrow look. “Don't make me tap the scroll.”

The scroll was a piece of paper torn from a wide-ruled notebook that Johnny had taped up on a beam between their desks. It lists all the rules they had agreed to follow in their co-dojo. Rule number one: no arguing about the 1984 All Valley Tournament.

Johnny lifts his hands. “Alright, alright. Don't get your panties in a twist.”

“My panties remain untwisted,” he says, and he hates what hanging out with this guy has probably done to his wit. “That rule was your idea, don't forget.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Johnny pauses and rolls up from his last stretch. He bounces on his feet a couple times and says, “How about a valley drop?”

Daniel hesitates. “I don't know,” he begins, thinking: I don't want to go over your shoulder again.

“No, c'mon, man. Your students still have a big problem with flinching—”

“And yours have a problem making them flinch. They're so busy gloating about it, they get distracted.”

“Exactly. This move centers a problem they all have. Sounds like something we should work on.”

Daniel hates it when Johnny actually makes a good point. He sighs and relaxes out of his butterfly stretch. “Fine. Valley drop.”

Johnny gets into position and gestures. “Come at me.”


“Come at me, man,” he insists.

“Why don't you come at me. You've had enough practice.”

Johnny cocks his head and points. “Scroll.”

Rule number two: no arguing about who started “it”. Daniel thinks they should probably just draw a big black box around their entire senior year and call it good. It would be more efficient, anyway.

He sighs and gets into position. They circle each other slowly, eyes intent. He always likes this part. The anticipation of it.

He lunges forward with a punch to Johnny's midsection; Johnny blocks with his front hand and grabs the arm. He delivers a blow to Daniel's gut and then, while he is indeed flinching, swings under his still-outstretched arm and spins, hoisting Daniel up over his shoulder and—

“You're supposed to throw me, jackass,” says Daniel, blinking upside down at the floor between Johnny's legs.

“Figured I'd save the theatrics for an audience,” he replies, turning.

“Well – you gonna put me down, or do I have to do some damage to your head with my knee?”

Johnny crosses the mat to their office. “If you want to be dropped roughly on the ground, you could do that.” And when Daniel starts to wriggle menacingly, he picks up his pace and dumps Daniel on Johnny's desk. He doesn't step away after.

Daniel scoots back on the desk so his knees aren't knocking into Johnny's thighs. His wrist topples an empty. He glances down. “Goddamnit, can't you at least crumple them—”

Johnny's hands land on his thighs. Daniel looks at them.

“And what move's this?” he asks after a moment.

“My move. Haven't named it yet, but I'll think of something appropriately badass.” He pushes on Daniel's thighs and steps into the newly created space, and Daniel is starting to think he shouldn't've ignored that feeling he had when they touched in demonstrations. He thinks he's missed something here.

Johnny says, “First step is to spend a month throwing your opponent around and notice he seems to really have a thing for it.”

“I do not,” says Daniel, “have a thing for it.”

Johnny ignores this and puts his hands around the small of his back. “Second step is wait and assess your opponent's style, his weak spots.”

His heart feels like its decided to flee across the border and take up salsa dancing. “Oh, an extended metaphor from Johnny Lawrence. Great. This should be good. You going to take us through the whole thing, or—”

“Third step is: strike,” says Johnny and pulls him forward into a kiss.

Daniel immediately tries climbing him like a goddamn tree: his knees come up, his ankles hook around the back of his legs, and he drags Johnny down on the desk over him. Johnny puts out an arm and sweeps his file holder to the floor – man stocks his desk with fucking props, it's infuriating – and uses his free hand to drag at the waistband of Daniel's sweats before pulling his own down just enough to get his dick out.

“Oh man, you want this bad,” laughs Johnny into his ear a couple minutes later. His hand working them both, hot and strong.

Daniel turns his head and bites at his lips. “New rule for the scroll: no bragging during sex.”