Two thoughts kept flashing in Daniel's head. The first was that he hated it here. The second was that he was fucked.
It stayed warmer in Southern California much later than it did in New Jersey and so he was in just jeans and a tee shirt even though it was mid October. Beat up old red Nikes. He really should have had new ones in September but they couldn't afford it. They couldn't afford anything.
He'd tried, after three or four beatings, to avoid those Cobra Kai guys. There were five of them and they'd corner him, one or two would hold him and the others would pound on him, he didn't have a chance. And it was all over Ali. He should leave her alone, too. But he just couldn't. She was so cute with her blond hair and freckles, green eyes like the Atlantic back home. He couldn't leave her alone. Especially when she looked at him with that little half smile, her eyes squinted against the sun.
It was always sunny here.
"You're dead, LaRusso,"
He ran, and it hadn't taken long for his side to start hurting. Down back alleys, across fields, school yards of the San Fernando Valley. Johnny Laurence chased him and he ran, but it wouldn't do any good. Johnny was bigger, stronger, and faster. He'd catch him, sooner or later.
Ali, of course, was Johnny's ex girl friend. How this was Daniel's fault was beyond him, since he was travelling across the country with his mom when they broke up. He had been bored out of his skull, looking at the numbing farmland of those square states in the middle. He didn't know the violence and excitement he was headed for.
Johnny was closer, Daniel could hear his sneakers pounding the ground, could hear his breath.
He ran behind a school, past the swing sets and jungle gyms, and every breath hurt so bad, and there was a fence past the swings and the merry go round.
He was fucked.
Johnny laughed. Johnny loved Ali and blamed his loss on Daniel, and this wasn't fair. Daniel thought again how he hated it here and wished he'd never met any of these people.
He jumped at the fence, spidering his fingers and toes through the diamond shapes, hoping to shimmy up and over before Johnny got him.
"Gotcha now," Johnny grabbed his shirt and yanked him down. For some reason it was just Johnny, the other Cobra Kais were conspicuously absent.
Johnny spun him around, grabbed his wrist. Daniel tried to yank out of his grasp but Johnny tightened up on him. So he squeezed his eyes shut and turned away, tensing up in anticipation of getting hit.
And he was hit, hard, in the stomach. He doubled up, feeling that odd almost scary inability to breathe that he never got used to. And from September to now he'd been punched in the stomach a lot.
He curled up on the ground, the fence at his back, feeling the pain come in waves, feeling himself able to breathe again. He was crying strictly due to pain, tears of pain just like when a little kid scrapes off all the skin on his knee.
He hoped Johnny was gone and opened one eye a bit to see. Nope. He saw Johnny's odd blond hair, a pale yellow, blonder than Ali's. Almost pretty in a way.
Johnny reached down and Daniel flinched, but he just rested his hand on Daniel's shoulder.
"Why…it's not my fault…about Ali…" Daniel sputtered, his breath not quite back enough for talking. Johnny glared at him but said, "I know," in a more reasonable tone than Daniel had ever heard him use.
He sat up, leaning against the fence. It was late afternoon, the light a faded gold, gleaming off of all the metal things.
Johnny still scowled down at him, and Daniel felt a funny sort of helplessness, an acute awareness that he wasn't in control of this situation. If Johnny wanted to beat him up he would.
"So if you know leave me the fuck alone," Daniel said, and realized it was statements like this that contributed to how often he was getting his ass kicked. He stood up and brushed himself off. Johnny backed him up against the fence, held his wrists tight against it.
"It's easy to blame you," he said, and put his face close to Daniel's so their noses nearly touched. Johnny had dark blue eyes.
Daniel tried to free his wrists, his eyes widening, feeling a different type of fear now.
"Hey, look…" There weren't words, and he looked around wildly for help. There wasn't any help. They were alone.
"And I've noticed something about you," Johnny said, his voice low. Daniel stared at him and felt his heart beating too fast.
"You're pretty," Johnny said in a flat way. Daniel twisted and struggled to get out of his grasp but Johnny was too strong. He pressed up against Daniel and kissed him, and after a few seconds Daniel kissed him back, and felt himself responding, despite what he was thinking.