Bust A Move

Cedar Creek 

 Dante had not been utilizing Alina's gym as much as he should have been. With a day off and a brief exchange with Natalie, here he was, anticipating a moment to be a teacher. It was his belief that, with this new life style and all the strength that came with this particular infection, the girl needed to learn how to harness her inner badass. Or, at least, learn how to throw and block hard blows.

 He'd arrived before his progeny, finding the building largely empty, which was probably for the best. He changed into a holey shirt and a pair of shorts that had seen better days, barefoot on the mats with his hair pulled into a bun at the back of his head. By the time he sensed the girl's arrival, he was feeling a little restless, a feeling that was definitely increased by his own beast. It was eager to see the other, and eager to dispel some energy. Despite this, he knew he would have to take it easy on her.

 "Hey," he greeted her gruffly. He'd spare her whatever time she needed to prepare herself.

Red gym shorts and this workout shirt

This was an idea Natalie was largely intimidated with, but had agreed to out of the sheer principle of it. It made sense and definitely was important to be able to protect herself and get a better idea as to what she was capable of, but ahhh. That’s where Dante was supposed to come in so hopefully it would end up okay and she’d come away with more knowledge than before.

Walking into the gym, she was quick to point him out, nerves kickstarting up again. To the greeting, she offered a small, “Hi,” while setting down her bag by benches. Taking a deep breath, Natalie made the way over, putting up her hair into a ponytail while her wolf began barking and furiously wagging its tail in hello as they approached. Stepping on the mat she gave an unsure smile. “So, how do we start?”

 She definitely seemed nervous. Unsurprising, really, but he respected her more for coming to this in spite of it all. His own beast stood alert with hers in sight, ears and tail up, but not without a faint wag. She approached, and her question made him grin a little. He clapped a hand on her shoulder and gave her a gentle shake, a means to reassure and also allow his wolf to bump into hers.

 "Start by relaxing. I'm not gonna beat you up." He released her and took a step back, holding one hand up at about the level of his own chest. "Punch this hand. As hard as you can." And he would watch her closely, in order to judge her posture and the way she moved, where in her body she pulled her movements from.

The clap to her shoulder wasn't expected and Natalie jumped a tad despite her best efforts not to do so, especially in lue of the words being said. Dante was bigger than her and there was still that image of him she really didn’t think would ever be shaken. Still, he was trying to reassure her at least and that was appreciated, her own wolf leaning back as eyes brightened to green briefly. Natalie smiled up at him and took a breath as he stepped back, trying to release any tension she had. ”I know,” she said with a bit of a laughing exhale at herself.

Watching him lift up a hand, her head lightly tilted at the request. Probably the last time she’d done something like this was in some summer camp or another where they’d had one lesson on self defense or another she could vaguely recall. Punching things didn’t just happen naturally for her so this was drawing from zero experience. ”Got it, so.” Natalie put her left leg a bit back, balled up her hand haphazardly as her weight leaned back in preparation. ”Like this?” She took a breath and swung forward at the hand with a scrunching of her face in concentration.

 She seemed to understand, and Dante was quiet as he watched her prepare herself - glanced at her foot, the way she reared back and twisted before firing her shot. It was not a very hard it, but it was enough to make his hand move just so. "Alright. Let's start with your stance." He took a step back from her, lifting his hands in a blocking position before his face. "Instead of leaning back before you hit," he leaned back as she had done early, for demonstration, "Lean in a little." He continued to embody his instructions, leaning toward Natalie.

 "Punch from there." He threw a mock punch out of that position, away from her, so that she could see it from a side angle, even though it would probably take several of these lessons to get her to latch onto the information. "Shoulder loose. Then come back to neutral." He did just that, then held up his hand once more. "Try again."

The fact that his hand had even moved with her punch was surprising. It had a genuine smile gracing her face until it was time to concentrate on the advice.

Natalie watched carefully as he explained, paying special attention of the shift of his weight as demonstrated. So no leaning back, got it, but she hadn’t really been aware that was happening. She’d definitely be super hyper-focused on it now to be sure. ”Oh, okay, got it.”

And then he demonstrated how to throw the punch from the position, back and forth, trying to figure out each point that had been different between what he was showing vs what she’d done. There were a few subtle nods. ”Hmokay, so.” Natalie stepped a bit closer to him, positioning her body as he’d shown. ”Don’t lean back.” It was said more so for herself as she looked down at her feet, stopping herself from doing just that. ”This is a bit weird, ha.” Looking back up at him, she put her hand into a fist and made sure he was ready just in case, before leaning in and then throwing a punch, trying her best to stay loose.

 Dante found himself much more patient than he'd actually anticipated. She came closer, straightened up as she sort of talked herself through the motions. She mentioned it was weird, then threw another punch, and his hand moved just so once more. "Good," he rumbled, as a means of encouragement. "It's a lot of rewiring," he added, as a belated response to her comment of how this felt weird. Assuming she meant the posture and all. "Keep hitting. Five more punches. Come back to that neutral position between each hit." He put his hand up again, and reminded her once more, "Loose shoulder."

The encouragement was really very needed and she felt a burst of feeling more sure in this, especially at the confirmation it was going to be weird for a while. So she was doing okay! “It definitely feels like that.”

Readying herself again to do as instructed, she nodded and oh yeah, loose shoulder. “Oh, right.” Making sure that was loose, Natalie wasn’t comfortable in the stance, but like Dante had said, it’d take a bit. Taking a breath, she remembered the advice and swung, returning to the neutral position before doing so again and so forth. The wolf was using the opportunity to try to nip at fur, or a leg, or ear each time, totally down for the weird human game. All the while, she wondered how long it’d personally taken Dante to get to where he was since she assumed, considering, he knew his stuff.

 She was compliant, which made for a good student, and Dante eyed her movements closely as she made them, hand stiff against her advances. A little sloppy, but unsurprising given her experience. Not terrible, at any rate. His own beast stood still as its human counterpart did, eyeing the eager pup without retaliating beyond a curled lip and a stiff tail.

 "Good. Let's build on that." He lowered his hand, shaking it out some. "Your power comes from your feet. So." He knelt down and grabbed one of her ankles loosely, pulling it forward. "You want one foot to stay angled in front of the other, but keep your torso facing your target." The man stood then, to demonstrate the pose just as he'd like her to stand - feet wider than hip-width apart, one before the other, with his hips angled straight on. "The leg on the side of your dominant hand should be the one in the back, which will give you more force. Any questions?" It was a lot of information, so he wanted to make sure he wasn't going to lose her in the process.

They were done and she relaxed, feeling a bit more at ease and less weird about this whole schtick. So her power came from feet, got it, but she didn’t expect him pulling on her ankle. For a quick second she lost her balance but caught herself, a hand coming to hold his shoulder really quick. ”Sorry,” was breathed out, taking her hand back and watching, listening to the instructions.

Hips forward, but feet angled, that was going to be different too and it felt wrong. Moving her weight a bit to get a better feel of it, she watched as he got up and further explained. Watching him carefully, Natalie looked down at what she was doing, moving feet a tad. ”Do you step forward with it?”

”And how does this work when you’re moving a ton?” Not that they were there yet, but she was curious.

 "No, don’t step," he corrected quickly. "We’ll cover that later." Being in an actual fight was a whole different ball game. "You’d be moving a lot more in a real fight, but without knowing the basics you’d be fucked anyway. Let’s put you on a bag."

 He turned to lead her to the other side of the room, to a punching bag, and used a hand to guide her close to it. "You want to stay close to your target. Within a foot of them - closer is better. Foot back, hips straight," again, he modeled his words, looking between her and the bag as he spoke. "And punch like you hit my hand, but don't stop at the bag. You want your power to go through it. Think like your fist is going to go all the way through." He hit the bag then in a quick movement, sending it swaying away from them with. He looked at her then, expectantly.

At the ‘no’ she went super straight legged and looked back to him. Okay, so no moving feet, they were glued to the spot, understood. So they had to build on basics first and then moving would be involved, which made total sense. ”Yeah, probably,” she breathed.

Looking at her stance once more, Natalie then made to follow Dante towards where she assumed a punching bag was. If she wasn’t feeling self conscious before, she definitely was about to. Luckily, Dante was showing and explaining first and it was more stuff that sounded against what she’d normally be wanting to do: staying far far away from a ‘target’.

As he added on actually adding power to it and showing an example, Natalie bit her bottom lip some. See, as a human that was probably only going to move a tad with her normally, and now just letting strength go was worrisome. What if, by some absurd reason it broke somehow and she was responsible for yet another thing getting messed up because of wolf powers? This was a real concern that moved by and Natalie tried to shake away. If Dante hadn’t broken it, there was no way she was about to do it randomly.

”Okay, let me try, I guess.”

Stepping up next to him a bit, she looked to her feet, positioned the right one back and watched her hips to make sure they were facing the correct way. Okay, so, Natalie shifted a tad, made sure her shoulder was lose as instructed, sent a look to Dante really quick. Not seeing immediate want to stop her try, she turned to the bag and sent a punch its direction, aiming to go through with it more, closing her eyes on reflex, before returning to position and squinting out of one eye as the bag moved.

 She guessed. She didn't seem to have much faith in this, or herself, maybe. Dante took a quiet breath, reminding himself to be patient. He'd made this mess, after all. His expression was the same as she glanced at him, neutral, observant. He watched her strike it, and her form was not terrible for all it was not perfect, but he didn't miss her eyes crushing shut as she launched her hit.

 "Don't close your eyes like that," he instructed gruffly, but not angrily. "The bag is not going to hurt you. Watch it like your life depends on it. Now, again, but harder." Punch it like it's trying to kill your dog. But maybe we don't say that.

Natalie opened both eyes and looked apologetically over at Dante. She knew the bag wouldn’t hurt her, but it still happened. ”Sorry, I uh, do that in soccer too,” she laughed at herself some. And in softball and in basketball, and literally anything with a ball coming her way the natural response was her eyes to startle shut.

Wringing out her hands for a moment, she got back into position and really paid attention to not blinking or startling away. And she swung again harder with a satisfying smack to the plastic, finding confidence in the fact nothing bad had happened the first time.

 She apologized, and he simply nodded, making no move to patronize her or comfort her. He could understand the natural instinct, but stood firm in the notion that this was a rewiring of sorts. She hit it again, and the bag wobbled away from her with greater force. Dante nodded again, approvingly. "Good." He stepped up to her again, and put one finger on her arm. "Now - when you punch, throw it straight. Unless you're trying to land a hook, you don't want to curve your arm, or twist your wrist. Hit it a few more times." He stepped back again with that, observing.

It wobbled away and y’know what, that was really nice to see, the and the additional praise did a lot. As Dante stepped up to her, Natalie watched where he put a finger and then back up to his face. ”Straight, got it.”

Turning back to the bag, she swung and then stopped herself as it lightly hit. That’ definitely had a curve. Slowly moving her arm in try again and yep, there it was. Aware, Natalie was hyper focused on her arm to get it straight as she hit the bag a few more times before shaking it out. She looked to him questioningly. ”You know a bunch about this… Do you fight a lot?”

 She curved again, and caught herself, and Dante felt a real little swell of pride. Smart kid. He watched her hits, offering short bits of praise, and nodding as she came back to rest and shake out her arm. At her question, he sighed thoughtfully, almost considering telling her no. But there was no point in lying, and anyway, it might be a hard tail to sell. "Yeah," he said simply. There was also a temptation to tell her about the Cage, but he refrained, realizing that he didn't really like the idea of Nat putting herself in there on purpose. Not yet, anyway - she was too new at this. Maybe it wasn't really the thing she'd do anyway. "Ready to work on blocking now?" Practice for now - maybe they could talk more later. Food would have to be a thing soon.

Yeah didn’t give any insights, but it was enough. He had to know how to do this from somewhere and it did seem to fit him. And that seemed to also be the end of any conversation as Dante was switching topics.

Turning to him properly, she got out of the stance, curious to see what this entailed. ”Sure. Does it use the same stuff?”

 "Eh. Sort of." It was hard to explain without showing her. Dante gestured with his hand for her to follow him a few steps away from the bags and back onto the cushioned mats. "We're going to start just by staying in place, but in a real fight you'd be moving around a certain amount of space. It just depends on what kind of style you might adapt to, or what kind of opponent you're up against. First off, you want to know what to protect most - that's your head and your chest." He bent forward at the shoulders slightly, lifting both hands at staggered levels - one hovered near his face, the other just below chest level.

 "If a human hits you in either of these places, it's not going to be too bad. You're a lot tougher than most of them. Another Were, though, or even a vampire, can give you a concussion or puncture a lung." Speaking as someone who'd recently been concussed by a hyena, he hoped to relay the gravity of such a situation to her properly.

Sort of? At the gesture, Natalie followed Dante onto the mats and listened as he began to explain how everything basically varied so again, they’d be doing basics which made total sense here. So onto, what to protect and she was careful to pay attention as he bent forward a tad to point to head and chest. The information on if a human would hit any of those varying from weres and vampires made sense. It was still surprising to hear it out loud that she was tougher than a most humans though. But then, the points about concussions and punctures had her looking at Dante with wide eyes.

”Head and chest, got it,” she confirmed. ”Is there anywhere else to be aware of?” The idea of either of those things happening, with her unattended shift in mind, made it too easy to think she might just do so again in that kind of scenario. All the more reason to block things for sure.

 He straightened up, lowering his hands as she asked him a question that was indicative of a good student. "You really don't want to get hit anywhere if you can help it, but those are the two major points." A broken leg was as debilitating as a concussion, a sprained wrist as inconvenient as having the wind knocked out of one's lungs. If she was lucky, she'd never have to face any of those things, but it was a crazy world. "If you can't block, evade." That was hopefully a useful tip. Bottom line, try not to get hit.

 "Okay, take that stance again, like you're going to punch," he instructed, counting on her to have it all fresh still. "But lift your hands like I showed you." Once she was in position, he'd continue. "Now. Don't let me hit anything but your hands, or your forearms. Ready?"

There were only two major points to really watch, got it, and she nodded along to the fact the goal wasn’t to get hit anywhere else. So in the face of anything she had her end goals, blocking and if not then definitely evading and Natalie would remember it.

At the prompt, she watched herself get into position to double check all was good, before looking at him again. Recalling how Dante’s hands had been, she tried her best to mimic what she’d seen. And oh, they were going to actually try it out. Nerves had her stomach flying again, but it’d be exciting to try things out, finding learning in the moment with these sorts of things easier. Blinking up at him, she gave a timid smile before a nod. ”Okay, got it, ready when you are.” Natalie would then watch him carefully to try to block whatever came her way.

 Even if her positioning wasn't perfect, it was something she'd learn if they were consistent with training. She gave the go-ahead, and he nodded in confirmation - in position in no time, he'd aim an open hand for her nose. If he hit her, it wouldn't be hard enough to hurt, but enough of a smack to perhaps startle her. He didn't want to injure her or make her shift, but he wanted her to be serious.

Dante was suddenly coming up and she backed up a step, flinching her head back while putting up a hand to block. Instead of the hand Natalie feared that would hit her, her own had managed to block his, something she looked at with a bit of surprise. So, she could maybe do this!

 She blocked, but maybe out of sheer instinct, considering the way she winced away from him. "Eyes open, I’m not gonna hurt you," he said gruffly, and would strike at her again in the same way, quick but light.

He reassured as she stepped back into place. She nodded in understanding and there wasn’t much if any pause before he was going at her again. There was a want to flinch, but instead of letting herself do what had been done before, Natalie lifted a hand to stop him. And instead of it being more instinct, this time it was a block she’d actually thought about and succeeded in.

 She did better the second time, catching his hand with intention rather than luck, and he nodded at her. "Good." Again, the strike would be quick and light, this time going for her gut rather than her face. Switching it up to see if she was staying on her toes.

Gaze focused, she smiled a tad at the compliment, and waited for the next one. Expecting it at her head, Natalie noticed movement heading a different direction and used her other hand to quickly block him in just enough time before it met her stomach.

 It would seem that defense might come more naturally to Natalie than delivering blows. There was, of course, nothing wrong with that - the end goal in any real fight was to get out alive. "Good," he praised again, and struck at her once again, returning his aim towards her face.

With the aim switching up it sort of reminded her of one of those weird arcade memory games, except if she missed there was actually going to be force back. But, putting it in a game frame of mind was helpful at least. Another attempt at her face and she blocked it, blinking at the small whoosh of air as it went by.

 "Good," again, because she seemed to respond well to praise. His hand came back to himself, and he shifted his weight before lifting his leg to aim a light kick at her thigh, testing her reflexes even further. They hadn't talked about blocking kicks, but maybe she'd be sharp enough to get around to doing the job.

Dante switching to legs was not something she expected in the slightest, but there were alarm bells as his weight shifted. Natalie looked down and sure enough a leg was coming at her. They hadn’t gone over this, but it’d probably be some sort of the same right? Using the hand closest, she made to push it away somehow, but ending up grabbing it. Sure enough, it stopped him, but now what? ”Uh, sorry,” she let go apologetically. ”I probably needed to push you away… right?”

 Catching the leg was not really a bad move - she could've lifted it to knock him on his ass, if she'd thought about it, or had the experience. He shook his head as she apologized, pulling his foot away to plant it on the mat again. "The grab is a good move. If you'd picked my leg up, it could have knocked me off balance, and you could use that to your advantage. Otherwise, you could just hop away." They hadn't really gotten into movement during a fight yet, but she was doing well for keeping still. "You're doing good. I think that's probably enough for today, though. Wanna grab a bite to eat?"

So, she hadn’t screwed up and it had been a good move after all. Natalie soaked in the information, trying to imagine knocking someone off balance as big as Dante. It seemed kind of impossible, but if he said so then maybe one day she could try it out.

Standing more relaxed, Natalie sighed and offered a smile. ”Hopefully, I’ll get it down soon. I really appreciate you showing me this stuff and yes, please, that sounds amazing.”

 He appreciated her investment in all of this. He nodded his head and offered her a little grin. "You got time to do this twice a week?"

There was a smile there and she didn't miss it even if it was small. Thinking over her schedule quickly, it would work out. Before? Maybe not, but with the new job, yep. "Yep, I can work it in."

 "Good." He reached out and clapped her on the shoulder. "Come on. Let's get some burgers or something."

 He'd move to pull his shoes on, thinking that this had gone a lot better than he probably could have imagined. One step in a trail of making all this less of a regret for both of them.

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