A Few Surprises


devon2_icon.gif graeme2_icon.gif

Scene Title A Few Surprises
Synopsis For Devon and Graeme, the beginning of some work on hand to hand combat ends up with more than a few surprises. Not all of them particularly planned for.
Date April 19, 2011

Dorchester Towers: Remi & Graeme's Apartment

As Graeme mentioned, he hasn't actually been living in the room in the apartment that he rents out from Remi. In fact, last that he had known, his landlady had been deported back to France, leaving Graeme in an interesting position as far as his residence, but so far, there's been nothing to stop him from having it as the residence where he receives his paychecks from the school district, the address listed on his Registration card. Even if he's not there much. But he had been there for at least fifteen minutes before the teenager arrived this morning.

When the teacher opened the door into the rather spartanly and modernly decorated apartment, he was already dressed for the planned activities—a white muscle shirt, a loose pair of grey workout pants, barefoot padding along the carpeted floor. There's a brief pause given, so that Devon can put down the breakfast goods he's brought on the dining room table, before Graeme leads Devon through the living room and towards his own, with no room for questions. Eating can come afterwards.

And Graeme's room, which is rather large for just being one of the spare rooms of the Dorchester Towers apartment, is a far cry from the rest of the apartment, although it is still painted that stark shade of white. Along approximately half of the room, a good ten foot area or more, both the walls and the floors are lined with mats. A black and red banded punching bag hangs in one corner, exactly opposite to the open closet. The walls that are not covered with padded mats have wall hangings, predominantly of woven fabric, strong and earthy Southwestern colors, down to even runners that cover the few shelves on the same side of the room as the closet. The double bed, pushed off to a side near the closet, is covered with a worn blue denim quilt, and some pillows, but it's quite certain that no one sleeps in it at the moment. And additional mats have been dragged out to cover the floor space that isn't more permanently covered with mats. Graeme gives the teenager a glance. "So, ready?" It's a rhetorical question, of course.

Despite the jests that had been poked at Graeme's expense, Devon arrived just on time, a quarter after eight in the morning. Like the older man, he's dressed for working out, in blue plaid board shorts and t-shirt hidden beneath a well insulated hoodie. A backpack hangs from one shoulder and breakfast is carried in a white paper sack, the bottom of which is speckled promisingly with grease.

Shoes are removed at the door before Devon follows inside. Breakfast, pack, and hoodie are left at the table, rather neatly placed and not just tossed down. He glances at the decor but leaves no remark over it, he'd lived in something much the same for the last two-ish months. And on reaching the room to be worked out in, the teenager's brows lift slightly and a small nod is given. Definitely a better idea than any park, with all the mats here.

Stepping into the room, Devon swings his arms forward and back like a butterfly, warming up his shoulders. When questioned, he looks up at Graeme and nods again. "Yeah," he answers with a faint grin. "Just go easy, alright?"

There is a hint of a nod, and then Graeme jerks his head over in the direction of the punching bag that hangs suspended on a sturdy chain from the ceiling, leaning on one of the padded walls. "Go on," he says. "Punch the punching bag. And don't let it hit you when it comes back." It's obvious that he wants to see where he has to start, at first, and the gaze with which he watches Devon is keen, observing, quick to pick up on little details.

Devon stares at Graeme a moment, comprehending the instruction yet seeing a different side of the man all together. Good thing he's graduated already, because Teacher-Coach-Graeme is a little odd after getting to know Regular-Graeme. With a small shake of his head, the teenager steps across the maps and to the suspended bag. He gives the bag a slight push to test its weight, feet settling into a rather casual stance with left foot ahead and right behind. Almost as though he were preparing to take another step with the right foot.

A jab is thrown with the left, followed by a rear hand strike with the right. It would appear Devon was truthful in that he's trained before. His punches are accurate, striking with the first two knuckles. His rotation comes from the hips and shoulders with feet remaining planted. The bag moves, the jab lending momentum for the rear hand to sink firmly in and halt its movement.

Graeme nods, a very quiet murmur of something that might be approval, then takes a few steps over. The strides are long, easy, almost catlike in the grace that rarely is otherwise seen from the man. Aloud, there's still approval in his voice, but it is contained, nearly restrained, as Graeme thinks as to where he ought to start, and then there's an idea. "Well enough, now," he begins.

"Now, try and punch me. And watch where I block it." Which is, perhaps, a ore important skill in the long run than being able to throw a punch, being able to block someone else from landing a blow on you, which Graeme has already proven his ability at doing, in the past. "You're bigger than me, after all." He takes a few steps away from the wall, turning so that Devon can face him.

Devon does turn to face Graeme, rolling the shoulder that's been problematic. It's still tight, aching, but he doesn't complain. It won't get better if he doesn't use it. He moves slowly, not wanting to actually hit the man, but intent is there that he'll touch if not blocked. Like the bag it follows the same pattern. A jab is thrown first, the other fist waiting to follow. Waiting, but not thrown.

There's a brief moment where Graeme rolls his eyes, and when Devon throws the first jab, Graeme raises his right arm from where it's stayed bent at his side, coming up to catch Devon's forearm and throw the blow aside, and then takes a quick step forward, hand going to catch Devon's good shoulder at the upper and push him backwards, towards the punching bag, partially to prevent the second punch from ever coming. There is a faint, slight frown on Graeme's face, but his words are light and teasing. "When I said try to punch me, I meant that you should actually try," he says. before releasing Devon and taking several steps back once more.

A dangerous look flickers through Devon's expression as he's pushed back, the emotion quelled though not before it's had a chance to be noticed. He meets Graeme's expression evenly, but it's a full minute before he steps away from the bag. This time, there's no setting up for the punch. It comes as the teenager closes the distance between himself and the older man. It's low and drawn from shoulder and hip and driven toward the teacher's stomach.

It's been a bit of time since Graeme's done any serious work with hand to hand combat, himself, but still, for this time, the teacher keeps it relatively simple, both stepping out of the way and then coming up with his right hand to throw the blow off to the side again, his hand making contact with Devon's wrist and forearm at about the time where, had he not stepped out of the way, it would have been close to his stomach. "Better."

A second strike nearly follows the first, blocked or not. But Devon restrains himself, the fist tightening until his knuckles whitening, but it's kept at his side. "…Sorry," he states in that typically quiet, rather distant tone, taking a step back.
WATCH> Savannah has connected.

"No, like I said, that was better," Graeme says, encouraging and quiet, his hands reaching to rest at his side for a few moments, and for those moments, he is silent, studying the teenager. "Now, what by way of blocking do you actually know?" He pauses. "The goal is to deflect the blow, so that it glances into thin air. Moving to one side, or the other, stepping back, under, whatever, provided that their blows don't land, and yours do. Try once more," he says, "aiming for my face and shoulders." There's another pause, before Graeme levels his stance, and offers Devon a smile. "Watch how I block it, when I do."

Little hesitation follows this time in Devon's attacks. It's not just one punch, but two, a right-left jab-hook that comes as he steps in toward the man again. But he's not just trying to strike the teacher. He's watching the other man's movements as well, eyes shifting to catch the reaction and retaliation.

There is a definite smile of approval on Graeme's face, this time, and no hint of a flinch, though there's a calm half step backwards as he brings up his left arm to throw the first punch off to one side. In fact, the teacher is slightly humming to himself, the hook caught with a flat palm and pushed backwards at the same time as he takes a step forward, hoping to use the same moment of opportunity in order to hook his foot behind one of Devon's ankles, a sharp pull back towards him, and possibly throw the teenager off stance and trip him up slightly.

His own intentions made known, Devon continues his attack. The first fist is flung again as he takes a slight step off to the side. It's meant to strike the older man in the head, or at least it's aimed that way. But the foot thrown into the mix hooks soundly at his ankle. Whatever Graeme's intent had been, it easily pulls the teenager's feet out from under him and he lands on his back with a sharp grunt.

Graeme pauses for a moment, and then drops to one knee, thoughtful. "Good," he says, with the tone of voice implying that for the moment, they're done. At least until it's stated to start again. "Now, why was I able to trip you up?" The question is posed to the teenager, with curiosity in Graeme's voice as well. "And see, this is why there're mats." There's a wry smile.

Devon pushes himself backward a little, then up onto his elbows. "No idea," he admits wit a frown. "You saw an opening and took it. Kind of cheated though, since you never said we were using legs too." Putting his hands behind him, he pushes himself up further, off the floor and onto his feet.

"More specifically, I never said we weren't," Graeme points out, before straightening up and leaning on the wall. The wry smile remains there. "You were focused on one thing, which meant that I could have kept blocking you from punching me for quite a while, but the opportunity came in a chance to trip you up." It's a lesson, even if Graeme is attempting to be subtle in the phrasing of it at least at first.

"Still cheating," Devon points out, arms folding across his chest. He stares at Graeme for a long moment, then lets out a breath. He gets the lesson, but it wasn't the lesson that was supposedly being taught. "You told me to watch for blocks, to see how you did that, not anything about throwing feet in there."

Graeme chuckles quietly, and reaches to pat the teenager on the shoulder. "That too. This time, I want you to block me from landing anything." Of course, Graeme's going to be pulling the blows so that even if they do hit, they're not going to be more than a light touch, but that's unsaid. "Or stop me from landing anything, in whichever way you find an opportunity. I'm just going to be throwing punches, but whatever you want to try, go right ahead."

"But first, water." There's a gesture to the nighttable, where there are two bottles of water. Graeme picks one up, and tosses the other to Devon before taking a long swallow from his own. Despite that Graeme's in good condition, it's been a while, and this is work, enough that it's getting to him a little, even despite his ability to simply keep going, and so he's taking the same break in time that he knows the teenager needs as well. "Then tell me when you're ready."

The bottle is caught and opened, though the younger man seems disinclined to drink anything. He does sip at the water, but with a sense of it being unnecessary just now. Replacing the cap, Devon moves toward the nightstand to return the bottle as it was before. His shoulders shrug, arms swing slightly, neck is stretched one way and then the other. He moves toward the center of the mat area again, turning to look at Graeme, then giving a single nod. He's ready.

Graeme's bottle gets set to the side, down on the floor near the wall. Regardless of whether the teenager happens to think it's necessary, the teacher knows that it is. That even this level of exertion when one isn't used to can add to dehydration, even in the cool of indoors and spring, and then Graeme begins, easy to block blows that are aimed at Devon's upper chest, though there is enough force behind them that should one land, it's an impact. He's not dissuaded when they're blocked, and after the first three, the next two, a right hook towards the teen's good shoulder, followed by a flat-handed strike towards Devon's gut, are at much closer to actual speed.

The first few are easily kept aside, Devon's eyes flicking toward each bit of movement and a hand responding to redirect or out and out stop the attack. His feet move as well, keeping a steady and maintainable pace, but moving his body to assist in keeping those initial strikes from landing. The hook, coming faster, manages to clip the teenager's shoulder as he twists to avoid it, the open palmed attack misses completely. It's pushed downward as the teen twists, and he takes it as his opportunity to sweep Graeme's feet out from under, hooking with his own ankle.

There is another smile of approval, as Graeme finds out that the lesson that blocks are not always literal blocks has been heeded. His feet out from under him, however, he is more prepared to fall. There is a moment, and then Graeme is twisting to land on his left arm, one knee coming up to his chest, and he pushes himself back to his feet, turn and step back to face the teenager before another series of three attempted strikes begins, a hook towards Devon's collarbone, once more on the good side, followed by several strikes that aim for the chest and neck area, but still closer to at speed than the initial attempts had been.

Not about to congratulate himself too early, Devon twists away from the brunt of the hook. The mirror image arm coming up to stop it from even touching him. He sacrifices his opposite shoulder but shows little in acknowledgement for it. Still hanging onto the idea of improvising instead of statically blocking, when that final strike comes in for him, the teenager returns with his own punch to Graeme's chest, hoping longer reach lends him its advantage.

And longer reach does in fact do so. Graeme raises his eyebrows as the blow connects, nearly instinctively reaching to push the teenager's arm out of the way, and what comes next is also an apparently instinctive reaction for the teacher. Not part of the lesson, certainly, and perhaps not something Graeme had been intending to do, either. But right arm comes up, the punch having been pushed aside, and he uses the advantage of being shorter, possibly smaller, and definitely faster at least at some things, taking a step in and under to settle a grip on the teenager's collarbone, though still on Devon's good side. It's a tight grip, the sort that precedes any number of various locks, but then Graeme catches himself, lets go, takes a step back, and offers Devon an apologetic glance.

"That was good," he says. "You surprised me." The second statement from Graeme is a definite admission. "Surprise is your friend, overall. You can be as technically good as anything but if you can't surprise someone, you'll never get out looking prettier than the other guy." Graeme walks over to lean against the padding of the wall, near where his water bottle is. "Still, maybe… maybe that's enough for the day." There is a small quiver of emotion that flickers across the man's face, but what it is, what it could be, is anyone's guess. But perhaps it isn't something that he likes, a reaction to being surprised that he hadn't intended to show the teenager, and so for a long moment, Graeme looks down at the floor.

Like Graeme, Devon's expression had changed for the split second that the teacher had changed tactics. A hardness had come over him, a subtle shift toward the dispassionate, for whatever reason. But there was no backing away or attempts to escape what could follow that tightening grip. It's gone in an instant, the teenager turning aside after a moment to recover his bottle of water. "Yeah," he agrees as he picks up the plastic bottle. "Time's up." He graces the older man with time to compose himself, busied with drinking down his own water.

"Yeah." There's a silently given thanks for the moment, the time and space, as Graeme bends down to pick up his own water. "But that was good," Graeme says. He reaches up to rub at his shoulder, absently, having put the water back down, and then begins gently pulling at his arm across his chest to stretch it. It's clear that he had, perhaps, in some amount of time, simply forgotten that he has years and years of instincts related to hand to hand, and that surprising him… brought those much closer to the surface. The grimace on the teacher's face slowly fades to something more like a gentle smile. "I'm out of practise too, I think."

"It's all good," Devon says as he lowers the water. The bottle is nearly drained, and he gives it a considering look. Then it's bottoms up again, the last gulp finished off and the cap replaced. "I appreciate you taking the time to work with me," he says as he turns toward Graeme finally. "Seriously. But… My feelings won't be hurt if you decide you'd rather not." There's no mention of the exchange, his own instincts had kicked in as well and if it had gone further, well… Unpleasant to think about. "I'll understand. Really."

Graeme shakes his head, ever so slightly. "We'll meet again in a few days," he says, with very little space for argument. The exchange hasn't dissuaded him, though maybe later tonight, when Aric's asleep and Graeme's got time to himself, there will be the repercussions of the things that he is simply refusing to think of or allow to the forefront of his mind now. And once Devon is gone, he'll likely spend a while before going out again simply working things out with his friend the punching bag, but that's not now.

"It's…" Graeme trails off for a moment, considering his wording, and continues, "nothing big, really." And since he did immediately recognise the instinct, backed off, and it did not go further, it's nothing big as far as Graeme cares. A punch in the chest? That much, he can take, a lot more of than simply one before it becomes an issue. He offers the teenager a more genuine smile, no longer forced. "It'll work out. Really, you surprising me? That's a good thing." Even if he's chiding himself because he should have been expecting it.

Devon studies the other man for a moment longer, brows knitting together. He nods slowly, after that long and pregnant pause, and allows for a faint grin of his own. "I'm not totally green at this," he states, neither braggart or boasting. "Just out of practice and needing a serious refresher course." He turns for the door to find his way back to the dining area and his belongings. "Just give me a call when you're ready."

Graeme grins and chuckles quietly. "Yeah. Find somewhere with a punching bag, and work with it," he says. There's the teacher mode coming out again, perhaps as a method of self defense against his own problems. "And work on keeping your wrists correctly positioned when you're doing so." A small detail that Graeme had noticed on the last of the blows, the one that actually hit, slightly. "Otherwise, you'll punch someone and hurt your own wrist more." There's a moment longer of leaning against the padded wall, before he follows the teenager back out. The pastries are waiting for them, after all, and the both of them being as they are, the last bit of the training this morning isn't going to be mentioned at all, during breakfast.

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