A Little Less Human

Avondale Woods 
#1
Thursday, January 16th, sunset
outfit plus a jacket
@Rayblers


 Second thoughts crept along for the duration of the bus ride. Lora had been feeling pretty confident leaving her apartment - she'd eaten a proper dinner, had been good and relaxed all day, and this would be alright! It would be fine. Looking forward to it, even. Learning something new and tactical, something useful to keep in her brain's back pocket. But, somewhere on the very short ride out to the woods, dread found her, worst case scenario thoughts slithering in through the cracks.

 She wasn't ready for this. What if she just hid in her house forever except to go to work? Then she'd never have to worry about fighting anyone. Where was the hyena's limit, anyway? When did it decide she wasn't doing a good job? Was this totally fucking futile? Maybe she should just stay on the bus, wait for it to loop back around to the bus stop closest to her home.

 She got off at the stop she was supposed to, after all. Couldn't hide forever. Didn't really want to disappoint Echo, either, for all she'd been privately nursing a growing feeling of resentment against him and Pete. It would have been a lot easier to hang onto that blind faith, that they had had good reason to turn her, but something in that had cracked under the pressure of really not wanting to be this way. She had no other options, though. It was what it was. The only way out was death.

 Twilight drained most of the color out of the landscape. She could still see the shapes of the trees better than she ever could have before, and somewhere on the air, she could smell Echo, and the curse in her head called out in whoops and giggles. He probably already knew she was here. Her shoes scuffed across the pavement as she moved, seeking him out, adjusting the bag on her shoulders. She'd brought clothes, just in case. Worst case scenario.
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#2


He did, in fact, know she was coming. He waited not far into the trees, carving at a piece of wood with his knife to pass the time. No creative shape, just a sharpened, jagged point. When he heard hear approach, the beast riled within him from the bored lull it had settled into, and Echo pushed with his foot against the tree he was leaning against, and dropped the wood onto the ground as he stepped toward the paved area. As he moved, he slid the knife back down into the holster on his hip. "Do you always take public transport?" He questioned as he approached, the hyena greeting her more warmly with a low whooping whine.
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#3
 Her eyes caught movement in the treeline, the shape of Echo pressing off a tree, knife just barely glinting as he put it away. He always had a knife on him, it seemed. Maybe he could teach her how to use one of those for something besides opening plastic. Stabbing people didn't sound too complicated. Wow, who the fuck was she?

 The beast squealed and grunted back to its maker, and Lora squinted a little against the sounds filling up her head. "Yeah. No car," she informed him, slowing when she could make his face out clearly. "Is that bad?" Probably a dumb question, Lora. Probably pretty risky.
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#4
No car, but maybe she could save for one, now that she did not have rent. At the question of his approval, Echo pressed his lips together, and offered her a shrug. "I do not like to trust people to drive for me, but you have no other option." Wether she shifted inside a bus, or in her own car, it hardly mattered. It was dangerous no matter what she did.

He only stopped before her a moment, to look her over, assessing. She looked healthy enough, though still thin. He wondered if she was eating enough. He would have to count on her beast to tell her if it needed more from her. Otherwise, she looked as she often did. Tired. When his eyes moved back to her, he extended a hand to tap gently on her elbow, then moved to step back and turn toward the trees. In the moment of touch, the hyena was happy to give her a bout of greeting sniffs, stamping right up to hers with the expectation that it would make itself lower and available to be nosed and nudged. "Come," He said, used to the nature of the interaction, unfazed by how strange it might seem to someone that had limited knowledge about how hyenas functioned, "We do not want it to get too dark." He added as he made to lead her into the woods.
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#5
 Ah, yeah, she guessed that was understandable. She really didn't have another option right now. Bus drivers tended to be pretty chill, though. Defensive and all that good stuff. Where Echo did not explicitly say whether or not it was a bad idea, she leaned back into the thought that it was okay. Or well, good enough for now. Would have to be.

 She watched Echo look her over in the way that she had come to expect him to. It was still a little weird, but that was Echo. A little disconnected from normalcy, himself. Was that what it was like to be stronger than average? That seemed... not great. Scarier than where she was, almost.

 He touched her elbow, and she could feel the movements of her beast leagues better still than she could manage to see it. Could see the other one looming over her, put the pieces together, that hers was putting on some funky show of submission. Then, they were off, and Lorena took a few moments to pull her focus back into the physical world before she trailed after him. She wondered what would be so bad about it getting too dark, but kept quiet. Whatever you say, captain.

 She listened to the woods as they crossed the treeline - silence where animals were concerned. They probably cleared out the moment they realized Echo was around. Just their footfalls on the earth, the whisper of dry branches and pine needles rubbing together with the wind. Her mind dwindled ahead of her, prying at the unknown thing to come, and she found that nervousness trying to creep in again by the time Echo found a suitable place for her to sling her bag to the ground.
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#6
It wasn't a long trek. His cabin was only a mile or two away from here, and he headed them in that direction. The trees watched them as they picked through the uncut undergrowth, sighing with disinterest as the wind whistled through their needles. Echo kept his gaze out into the shadowy reaches, all senses prepared for anything incoming. Of course, most things steered clear of them, the forest deadened by the threat of something beyond the natural world.

Eventually, there was a spot that was clear enough, and a half mile from his home. Comfortable, he slowed their move and extended a hand to stop her. Briefly, he was reminded of a time he had taken a girl under his wing when she joined a dying Cackle. She had disappeared before he had, and he wondered if she was dead now. Lorena would not so easily do the same.

"Have you had any sort of training?" He questioned her as he turned to glance at the bag she toted with her. Clever.
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#7
 Woods in the evening were eerie. Lora tried to remind herself that they were the two most dangerous things to be found out here, but it didn't bring much solace. She had some piece of the feeling she'd had the morning after she'd attacked Mateo - that she was being watched. Some creeping prickling on the back of her neck.

 She stopped as directed, freed herself of the bag. Her hands clasped at the open edges of her jacket, but didn't remove it yet. "I took a self defense class once," she confessed uncertainly. She wasn't sure if it had really done anything for her. She just remembered feeling self-conscious, struggling to focus on the moves themselves in the face of thoughts like you look stupid like this and you're probably doing this wrong! None of that really mattered anymore.
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#8
A self defense class. Echo could not imagine what sort of bullshit a woman in yoga pants had taught Lorena to do. None of it, surely, was viable. And it was likely she forgot it all, anyway. That being the case, he was working with a blank canvas. He nodded at the answer, but did not laugh. This wasn't the sort of thing to take lightly. This was the matter of survival. "Alright." He said, then moved to free himself of his jacket, revealing scarred and hairy arms.

"I will teach you basics tonight. It is important, I think, for you to learn enough to get you free of a dangerous situation. For now, never make winning your goal. You will not be able to defeat an opponent without being shifted." Of this, he was entirely certain. Echo continued to speak as he folded the jacket and placed it on the ground, then reached into his pockets for his wallet, keys, and phone to place atop it. "You only need to be able to find a window to flee. When you flee, you must always find a place to hide. It is nearly impossible to stop a shift when you're so new." He kept the knife on, exposed now entirely without the jacket, the hilt visible from the top of a sheath that was fixed to the side of his belt.

His stride brought him toward her then, a casual pace as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Do you have questions before we begin?"
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#9
 Alright, then. Echo pulled off his jacket, and she would do the same, morbid curiosity and good manners warring over whether or not she should stare at his battlefield arms. Focus, Lora. She hiked her cracked phone out of her pocket, then her keys, dropped them haphazardly on her jacket. Tonight, just the basics. Her goal should be to get away, not to win. No problem there, boss.

 She nodded somberly, eyebrows pinched together in almost grim focus. Find a window to flee, to hide someplace. She felt a little discouraged here again - in a real fucking tight spot, she wouldn't be able to win, wouldn't be able to stay human. The former was a lot easier to accept at this point in her life, the latter less so. At least Echo was being transparent about it. She appreciated that a lot. This was worth something.

 She watched him approach, considered the knife, the marked up arms, then focused on his face. "No questions," she assured him, arms hanging uncertainly at her side. Echo might find that Lorena was better at learning by doing rather than listening.
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#10
He focused on her, keying into the emotions she radiated. Anticipation, tension, but no true fear. Good. Echo nodded as she responded, then stepped even closer, into her space as he moved to place his hands at her elbows, and coax her arms to lift, "Alright, arms up," A glance down, and he moved a foot to nudge at one of her ankles, "Feet apart, one foot further back." His silvery gaze moved back to her face, perhaps intensely close, "It is important to keep your feet under you, and your arms in front of your face." His hands withdrew so that he could hold his own arms up, fingers fisted, forearms squared before his face to demonstrate. "Head low, make it a difficult target." His own ducked, and he peered at her expectantly to follow along.
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#11
 That would seem to be the mark to begin. Echo stepped closer, crowding her, and her instinct was to step away. Personal space!!! She stood her ground anyway, biting down on the nerves that swelled up. This was fine. Weird, but necessary, probably. She had no fucking idea what she was doing, and it left her with no other option except to surrender to the flow. The story of her life as a hyena so far.

 She lifted her arms, staggered into the proper footing. Remember this, Lora. She clung to the physical feeling, looking up at the not-quite-human face that hovered near hers, her expression almost grave. Feet under you - duh - hands in front of you. She nodded, once, watching him display a similar posture as she held her own. Head low. Okay. Made sense. She did that, ducking her chin with more of a hunch in her shoulders, keeping her eyes on him through the cage of her arms. Was he going to punch her or something when she least expected it?
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