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Better When it Burns

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Karate has always been labored, burning breaths for Johnny. Cardio inhalations that sear his lungs, increasingly painful the older he gets, the more he drinks. If he’s not panting when he fights, then what’s the fucking point. It should hurt, it should rip through his body like fire.

But Daniel seems to think you have to do, like, yoga breathing when you train, and Johnny is trying his hardest not to scoff at every little suggestion he makes, so. He tries it out. In through his nose, out through his mouth, the Kata motions slow, deliberate, meaningful. Daniel sounds like a pregnant woman getting ready for a water birth as he demonstrates, and It’s embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as the way Johnny keeps staring at his mouth on every exhale: eyes locked on the neat, exaggerated o of his mouth. Like a blow up doll. Jesus. He wishes he’d quit thinking insane shit like that.

You stopped,” Daniel observes, voice even, gaze dark.

“No I didn’t, we’re just moving so fucking slow you think I stopped,” Johnny snaps back. “I’m still moving, Larusso. Keep up.”

“No, not the Kata, I mean—you stopped breathing.”

Oh, that. Yeah, maybe he’s right. Johnny does keep holding this breath, comforted by the way his chest aches when he does it. It’s easier than remembering to keep the steady inhalations coming, to push them out as long as it takes to suck them in. “The breathing thing is stupid,” he says, dropping his hands and standing up straight, losing his ready stance. “It’s not gonna matter, when these kids are defending themselves, if they’ve taken a deep breath or not. This isn’t scuba diving.”

“Johnny,” Daniel says, voice taking on that long-suffering edge to it that always raises Johnny’s hackles. Makes him want to lash out, act childish, bite Daniel Larusso in the fucking leg like a dog and shake him a little. Don’t patronize me. We agreed we’d listen to each other, you agreed you wouldn’t act like your way was better than mine, he thinks. Remember, we agreed you wouldn’t act like your method was better than mine,” Daniel says then.

Taken back, Johnny widens his eyes, shakes his head. Damn. They actually are on the same page, he just... keeps forgetting. “Right, right, ok,” he forces himself to say, lifting his hands and backing off a little before settling back into position. “I’ll quit holding my breath.”

They move together, track each other’s motions, and Johnny almost thinks he’s starting to get the hang of it when Daniel’s dark eyes flicker, snag on his mouth, his throat, his chest—something. It makes his heart leap up into his fucking throat and choke him, something like dread speeding his blood along.

“Just breathe,” he murmurs, and Johnny coughs, realizing he was doing it again- holding his breath. That’s why Daniel was looking at him. Why his eyes stuck in all those weird, forbidden places, where Johnny is sweat-slick and vulnerable and shouldn’t be looked at. He inhales shakily, and lets it out long and slow, even though he doesn’t fucking want to. He wants to burn. To hurt.

“Like that. That’s it,” Daniel murmurs, smiling.

It’s weird, and probably dangerous, how warm those words sit in Johnny’s gut. He doesn’t want to breathe the right way for Larusso—he doesn’t want it to feel good when he follows his directions, soaks up his praise like a biscuit all gravy sodden and crumbly. He doesn’t want to be soggy and full of zen-ass yoga breath. He wants to win, even though he knows they’re not even fighting right now.

But he promised he’d do what Daniel said, today, so. He grits his teeth, and sucks in another fucking breath.


Two months later, he’s got Daniel on his back, in his bed, staring down triumphantly at the way he’s all red-faced and sweat slick under him. Fuck, Johnny is so glad he can spit Daniel’s own fucking words back at him, he’s so glad his lashes are fluttering like that, his mouth parted and gasping and hungry. “Larusso,” he murmurs, sweat dripping from his brow into the ditch beneath Daniel’s collarbone. He rubs over it with his thumb. “You’re holding your breath.”

“Ah. Fuck. Right,” Daniel hisses. “It’s just that—“ then he cuts himself off, gaze darkening. He was gonna say Johnny’s dick was big, probably, and Johnny wants to fucking fist pump at that but he needs both hands, one to encircle the base of his shaft as he lines his cock up, the other braced on the mattress so he doesn’t collapse. “Just that what?” he asks, grinning, pushing a little deeper and making Daniel wince, gasp, whine so pretty like the fucking cockslut he is. God. It’s crazy, how much he likes it, how much he begs for it, even when it makes him so that he doesn’t remember to breathe. Were you gonna say that I’m big?”

“Just put it in,” Daniel snaps. “Please.”

“God, you’re so hungry for it. I thought you were like. Into meditation. Thought you were too good for impatience, but look at you. Such a needy fucking hole,” Johnny murmurs, sinking inside deeper, heart clutching at the heat, the give. Every time, it seems like it should be impossible, but every time, it works, it fits, his actual dick fits inside Daniel’s actual ass like magic and he can hardly fucking believe it. That they fit together so good. That this was there this thing was hurtling towards, all those years it was hurtling.

“Just breathe,” he says, and Daniel does. Relaxes, opens up, swallows him whole like a fucking fire. Burns like breath. Fuck yeah, Johnny thinks as his balls slap home. Maybe there is something to the stupid Tai Chi breath. He’d never admit it, but maybe Larusso has good ideas, occasionally. “Like that. That’s it.”