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June 27, 2014: Richard Dragon and Cassandra Cain Talk. This time without the words. More gets said.

Richard Dragon's School in Chinatown

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Mood Music:

It was perhaps a day later, perhaps more when the early part of the day in Chinatown was slipping towards the late afternoon. The streets were busy without, the neighborhood doing a brisk business as people moved through the local markets. Tourists took photos and observed the curious foodstuffs, the interesting celebrations and practices. Meanwhile the merchants conducted their business, and all seemed well. It's been some time since the local gangs had been scared off from this area, and those who lived in the neighborhood were making the best of it.

One such an individual is the man known as Richard Drakonovski. The demands on his time are few of late. There is only so much time one can really spend meditating, training, and waiting by the phone for a call from SHIELD. So it was out into the world that he went. He ran a few errands, finished the paperwork needed to verify his ownership of the old school, and then with the sun still in the sky he returned home.

It was into the dark dojo that he entered, the sliding door opening and him stepping inside to close it behind him. Under one arm he had a brown bag of groceries, in the other he held the keys that he casually tossed into the air and caught as he whistled a song to himself. As he reached that small kitchenette in the back he murmured to himself, "Just a small town girl. Livin' in a lonely wooorld." He cuts himself off as the whistling continues.

The polite thing would be to wait outside. But Cassandra… has some issues with manners. He told her to drop by, and she's not going to make off with anything so it's OK that she picked the locks and came inside, right?

The first thing he might notice are her shoes in the cubby he'd pointed her at the first time they met. Then the girl herself, standing in one of the shafts of late afternoon sunlight with her eyes closed and face tilted up to it. It's that quiet, still way of standing that makes her actual presence the second thing to be noticed. Somehow becoming part of 'what should be', instead of her shoes, which are out of place from how he remembers leaving it.

She's dressed as she was before, loose cargo pants and simple tanktop. With of course, no shoes.

To stop the whistling immediately clearly would be a sign of weakness. So when he spots her he meets her gaze and then offers her a nod… as he finishes the last stanza. It's curious that he did not notice her there initially. But then it could be that double-edged sword that allowed him to draw close to her the other day without her noticing. That lack of malice.

He sets the paper bag down and he smiles to her across the way. It's just a small smile as he says, "Welcome," The inflection is strong, perhaps formal. There could be more words between them… but they are not individuals for which words will satiate their curiousity about the other.

So once the food is stowed properly in the refrigerator, he turns and moves back into the central area of the dojo's practice floor. He looks across the way and uncurls a rough hand to her as if to say, 'please'. "Afterwards, if you wish, you may join me for dinner."

And then there's that faint flicker of that teasing tone, that hint of amusement that a passerby would not notice and meant entirely for her. "If you are still conscious, of course."

Cassandra Cain's eyes open and her head turns to look over at him almost at that same moment he notices her. It would seem like that's when she too noticed him but she couldn't have missed the whistling. His smile is returned with a small one of her own and she drifts across the mats to wait at the edge of his kitchenette area as he puts things away with an easy patience. There's that lack of conversation, as though standing close enough to keep him company is enough for her to feel like she's doing the equivilent of smalltalk. How are you doing, isn't the weather nice.

As they move back towards the open floor, she glances over to him. "If I'm still conscious… your cooking might finish me." She's going on his 'cooking' last time she was here and the re-heating of dubious leftovers.

Taking a spot near the center, her body just relaxes into a ready… stance might be too formal a word for it. Her eyes have gone dark and indent, the teasing and humor falling away. There's a certain kind of eagerness that lurks therein. Almost a hunger as she waits.

That last glimmer of a smile summoned from him by her words, that is the last she will see for a time. As she moves there upon the mats and makes ready, he steps to a point precisely opposite of her and an easy distance apart. Their eyes meet and suddenly they are a pair of empty books without title nor content. The conflict that comes from them now will be the entries that they write as they learn of each other.

He flows effortlessly, smoothly into stance. Moving with the clean grace of water poured into the shape of a man. He presses the toe of his left foot down into the mats then sweeps that foot around a quarter circle until his side faces her. His weight balanced upon the other leg, he brings his hands up high and then lowers them slowly to settle them one forward and one back. And as he moves she'll hear the sharply controlled breathing as if whispering, 'Ssssssahh.'

And in that moment she will read in his stance, in his eyes. A simple statement. I am here. For you. Do what you shall.

Cassandra Cain's defense is her strength. Normally, she lets her opponents come to her. But that doesn't mean that she won't start a fight. From watching him, she knows he's trained. Knows he's good. But not the extents of it and so when she closes, leading with a fist she's holding back. Holding back her speed, holding back her strength. She still moves fast enough to hit most people before they realize she's moving, and if the punch landed it would be enough to rock him back on his heels.

Where her speech is stilted, almost broken, lacking tone and inflection, here she's fluent. This is how she Speaks. Without a word, she asks how good is he. How fast is he.

And it may surprise her when she feels that light 'tap' upon the side of her arm, knocking her strike just enough out of line for it to brush past the side of his head as he steps in and there's a blur of movement as a punch just as quick and just as precise as her own is fired almost as if he were the very mirror she sometimes trains against. It's the introductory page of what will pass between them, the simple greeting and hello when she asks him how good is he?

That answer comes upon the knuckles of that punch and whispers to her, 'very.'

Cassandra Cain's body moves even as he's starting that return punch. 'Twist' would be too… vulgar for what she does. It's a small enough movement those with less skill would think they missed. That she got lucky. His fist passes by close enough to feel the heat of her skin as she doesn't waste the energy of a hard block. She just slips away.

He can see her muscles loosen, some of that restraint let go, like someone taking a deep breath. It's an acknowledgement of his skill, and compliment. Without even a pause, she lets him know she's impressed. Her body flows into another attack, using the length of her legs. He can already tell she's not using a particular style. She's not even really flowing from style *to* style, there's pieces of several mixed together. Like she never *learned* them as individual styles.

She's sharing her past, in a way that's other than telling a story, or the scars painted on her body.

She offers him pages from her background and he responds in kind. She may not recognize the history each stance, each movement entails, but she can speak that silent language of form and motion that each grants.

As she does him the honor of letting some of her restraint go, she can see a similarity in his own stance. To a casual observer it would be nothing more than a slight rolling of his shoulders. To her it is an offering of intensity, a surrender to the inevitability of giving entirely of himself to her in this small arena.

Her legs lift and flow out, snapping sharp with blurring whipcracks of movement. She can feel the jolt of impact dance up her limbs with each strike as he accepts them, but uses shoulder, forearm, the side of his thigh. They are counters precisely made and she can tell that the man's form is tempered well in the fires of conflict. She is not going to batter them down. And then he counters.

There's a whirl of movement as he steps in while her leg snaps back. It's just enough, a step enough to close the range. His back leg slices around, whispering as bare foot barely graces over the top of the mats to land behind her. Just a quick attempt to hook ankle, to make her shift stance, to alter momentum for the short snap of his elbow to lance in, followed by an uncoiling of a backfist.

It's so quick… and there's such little telegraphed that she may not read it as easily as she reads from others. It's as if his movements were calm, serene, despite the utter violence in each motion.

And in that moment she will hear his body whisper in that short combination. 'now show me how good _you_ are.'

Cassandra has it easy, most of the time. Even against entire gangs at once compared to her they're slow. Clumsy. It's more of a workout than a challenge because there are few than can push her limits just in flat skill. As Richard drops deeper into the flow of combat, it's not just the speed and the strength that needs to be addressed. There's a lack of thought, the empty mind that steals away the easy cues. She can't see five and six moves ahead of him anymore and it brings her much more firmly into the 'now' of the fight.

He catches her ankle, and she rolls with that. He strikes and now one could call it 'twisting' out of the way, a hard twitch and one hand comes up to block at his wrist to help slow the blow enough for her to angle away. Momentum is taken. Used. Redirected as one foot strikes upwards, her head near the mat with her free hand pushing up as well. He can catch microseconds of reactions aborted. Redirected like that momentum. Killing blows that are a first reaction viciously strangled back. It's not that she doesn't trust him to not be able to take them, she won't let herself use them.

As for his movements she can almost /feel/ them, they are all a means to an end, given freely and offered as if they were but suggestions for what must occur, all aiming towards defeat. It is difficult to plan several moves ahead of him… for he often does not know what he plans to do until that momentary opening is there befor ehim. But then again… it can be used against him if she keys in.

When she swirls into that gyre of movement, shifting the flow to bring her foot upwards and strike clean, she feels it impact /firmly/ with his shoulder, perhaps enough strength behind it to shift his stance a step to the left. Yet he uses that as well. Moving in as he lifts a foot and brings it down, seeking to step and lock upon her foot to try and stick her in place.

Yet each movement has been counterable, not easily, but for someone such as her… decently so. She showed him those choked back reactions, and after the third one he seems to realize. There, the shattered larynx averted not by his defense but by her decision. The crushed femoral artery… avoided by her foot held in check. The pierced eye, his defense not given a chance as that momentary hesitation is halted before she lashes out.

His answer is to match against her, to move in, and when there is an opening he fires a flat palm-heel strike at the bridge of her nose that would possibly send shards of bone into her brain. But he checks it at the instant. Not to say, 'Look I can do this too.' But to say, 'I trust you. Whatever you decide.'

Most wouldn't even notice the movements stopped, almost before they're begun. Wouldn't see how a series of movements would logicially lead to a deadly thrust… only to have that moment pass and flow into something less… effective. If she wasn't keeping herself from following through, she could be terrible. But even then, as they continue to fill the room with the hiss of fabric, the thud of flesh, the drag of feet against the smooth mats, he can feel her acknowledge his size. His reach. His experience.

There is no fit of temper though, no petulence that he is indeed good enough to make bold statements about putting her out. She just lets go, moving with a speed and strength and coordination that most wouldn't believe human but always, avoiding blows that would be death strikes if they managed to get through.

For most, it might be a grim sort of determination. That fight they've already concluded that they've lost but if anything she seems lighter, more at ease… almost *happier* to trade blows with him than to sit and talk over coffee. Now he can see where she had a rough night, the bruising on one leg making it just a bit tender. The rueful way she protects it. Yeah, she got cocky and someone got a good hit in. Pushing the fight longer, she lets him know she's doing well, her health is good. She has the stamina that comes with that. Determination tells him about her emotional state. All things that other people talk about to share.

And in turn she is given insight into this man here. He is one who treats each movement, each technique as some shrine to the history that wends through it all. She may not be aware of it at first, but as he turns, first there are a series of low sweeping kicks slicing across the mat and forcing her to retreat, almost as if he were a monkey flowing through a roll to strike.

And then he turns and she'll see in the shift to turned wrists and strikes with the backs of his hands, the northern styles of kung fu that flowed together and where each one grew and evolved. She may have studied them before, but now she is seeing how they relate, how the one inspired another even as his fists lash out and force her to focus upon defense for a time until she's able to round back with a strong counter.

And then she connects, she can feel the /crunch/ as the ball of her foot collects cleanly with the side of his chin and snaps his head back. It's a momentary break in the rhythm, an abrupt silence in the middle of the opera they had been writing together. But then she'll see his eyes, joyous, engaged, and entirely taken even as a small hint of blood is there just at the corner of his mouth.

And then the dance begins again. He moves in, turning, arms wide as that Northern Kung fu flows to the voice of the East. He lashes out, turns, broad sweeping movements of his arms clearing and attacking in the same moment until then suddenly stiffened knuckles slam towards the center of her chest. A strong strike looking to press her back and should it land she will hear him lift his voice as he focuses his chi and shouts, "JIYAI!"

David Cain cared little about the history, the culture of the combat he taught, and so there's a curious facination to the 'lesson' in the way her blocks wait to see the strike resolves. The focus of her attention even as she moves out of the way. Especially it's his own passion for it that coaxes at a mind usually set on the practicality and economy of the movement.

When her strike lands, she doesn't start in surprise or pause and that moment of silence is like a flourish. Like something to build tension as they come around in that brief gaining of space. Her hands crank down into fists, not in laughter or victory or teasing, but in that shared joy of the moment. As if somehow, it were a sign they both won… something.

Even as he keeps trying to coax her to completely let go, he sees the strength of her decision. A solid core upon which her sense of self is built and gives more sense to her warning of that first night. No. She won't kill. Won't be a killer. Won't use what is obviously a large part of her vocabulary.

Yet even with those 'words' denied to her, they still have so much to say to each other. It's in moments like these that time seems to slow between them, when all of the sensations of the time seems to coalesce into the whole picture between them.

It's in that instant when his shout is still resonating around the dojo. That instant when he is pulling back from that punch almost as if in slow-motion. A third party would not see nor sense the feeling of the mats being crushed faintly beneath bare feet. Would not feel the whispered breeze of their movements passing so close together, nor feel the rough and heavy impact of flesh and bone striking like. Through it all his eyes hold hers and she can see a mirrored spirit. There is a faint hint of pain, but it is overwhelmed by that hint of joy at finding a peer. She can see the faint beadlet of sweat at the curve of his jaw. He can see the slight glisten of sweat upon her top. They can each hear the other's controlled breathing and feel the warmth of the other's nearness when they move in and clash.

And then time comes crashing back into play as she counters, her kick slicing through the air with a snap of movement and fabric. He ducks low and in, trying to press forward in a takedown as he reaches to grasp behind her knees and steal her balance from her. If he succeeds their conflict will change from strikes, to groundwork with him attempting to seize the dominant position. And in his eyes she can see the challenge there, as if daring her to succeed.

The bruises will come later, from where strikes landed, from the hard blocks she had to make because she couldn't read him soon enough to slide out of the way. The smears of blood are there now, where skin gave way to callused flesh. She was supposed to take tonight off, and it's probably good given she'll be more than a little banged up at the end of their 'conversation'. Cassandra rolls with the force of the Dragon's strikes, and he capitlizies on that to take her to the floor. She has no problem puncuating her feelings on this with elbows and knees. She's good at groundwork, like she is at just about everything, but he picks up that she likes the freedom to move better, her wrestling with him almost… grumpy even as she tries to twist him down beneath her.

She's good at ground defense, but in such a position she gives up so much considering their difference in size, in weight. But she's able to slam an elbow down, to roll with him until she's able to seize the superior position with her upon his chest even as his arms are held up and twisting one way and the other, shielding himself from her blows.

She can see him as he covers up, he realizes that this is not her ideal method of engagement. Rare is it when someone of her size likes to get in close to someone of his as she gives up a foot of height and a hundred pounds or more. But then there's that faint look in his eyes, the teacher, the instructor that simply whispers to her quietly that what we do not like we must face and overcome.

And just such an opportunity is given when she tries to retreat he will not allow her, a strong hand reaching up to her shoulder with strong fingers digging into the flesh of her shoulder. He draws back a fist readying a palm-heel strike that could land terribly hard.

To an outside observer, it looks like they're trying to kill each other. The blows that land would shatter bone if they didn't know how to turn aside enough of the force to avoid getting maimed. The whole of the conversation would fall on deaf ears as they wrestle about.

They'd never see her wry reply to his chastisement, his wanting to learn and teach putting gaps in his style as much as her lack of killing moves. His wanting to accomplish something, her *not* wanting to accomplish something. No, they're not fighting to the limits of their ability, but it's something more satisfying to each in their own way.

The threat of that incomming blow has her small hand closing about the Dragon's wrist, using it to try to redirect all that energy before he ends up alone for dinner again. But this time because he puts her out cold.

She's able to get that grasp, to turn the wrist in time as she slips around behind it. So forceful was the strike that he's pushed up, one leg sliding back as if almost gaining his feet fully. Yet even before she might consider what to do with that arm, he's twisting the other way as his other foot pulls back so that he's crouched upon the ground partially. A viciously fast elbow lashes around his back the other way aiming to knock her back and free of him.

But it has a vulnerability, one bare instant where his back is towards her while he's turning, that spinning gyre of motion as he chambers that elbow fires. It's another one of those moments when time seems to blur and slow. She can see him turning his head, that is the telegraph, when he's no longer looking to his right but turning his head left and his elbow already chambering. It's in that moment that she can hear high above the first faint pitter-pats of raindrops landing upon those high skylights. Can feel the burning heat of their exertion between them, the faint clamminess of his skin under her grasp.

And then suddenly the elbow is flashing around and she must act.

When talking, Cassandra is slow. She takes her time. Answers only come after thinking hard about the *words*. Those clumsy things that most people use to communicate. But movement, combat, she doesn't have that problem. A moment is all that she needs and everything is laid out for her like a map. He puts her in his blindspot for a moment, comitting to the action. She rides that infintessimally small moment into another, moving as he turns his head to stay in it just a fraction of a second longer. Long enough to try to get one arm around his neck, her smaller body pressed close along his spine, one of her feet on his hip with toes curling inwards to go with the flow of his body, his movement.

The teacher in him approves, she can no longer see his features, can no longer so easily tell his thoughts or his feelings. But he is pleased that she is facing that which she is not at ease with. It is not an expression she will see until…

Too close for the elbow to strike, yet there is no wasted motion, no spare moment or bit of energy. He continues turning to the side, suddenly dropping to one knee and reaching up to grasp at the arm she has snaked over his neck and suddenly tilt forwards, rocketing down and pulling with his arm to try and /yank/ her over his shoulder in a traditional judo throw that is aimed at sending her flying.

Though someone with her acrobatic skill will not be down for long from such a throw but it gives them both time. Time to retake stance, time for their eyes to meet again. And time for her to see the smile in his gaze as he lifts one hand, and crooks two fingers for her to come at him again.

She will hear that whisper of body language, and it tells her quietly, 'Task me again, my friend.'

Cassandra is good enough to get an inkling of what he's feeling, even without being able to see his face. Her wry reply is in the flex of her arm against his throat, the twist of her body as it follows his turning movement, the arch of one foot still over the curve of his hip while the toes of the other skate over the top of the mat.

She can feel the bunch and flex of his muscles as he goes for the throw, and while she could try to hang on she waits for the right moment to let go, tumbling into a roll that brings her back to a crouch and facing him. Her gaze locks with his even as sweat drips down her face, lingers on her jawline before finally falling. Her chest rises and falls as she breathes through parted lips. Her tongue prods the split lip she has even as he grins at her and his gesture gets a rough laugh. There's the roll of one shoulder and then she's leaping, airborne, tumbling forward with another kick as they circle around for an encore.

She can see the rising and falling of his chest, the steadying breaths he takes as he gathers his energy. She has cost him, these efforts, the blows and counterblows. He is breathing harder than he has against just about any opponent for such a long time. There's that gleam of exertion upon his brow, and the subtle scent of him as they clash once again. It's a curious scent, sandalwood, exertion, sweat, a hint of blood and masculinity. They pass by so close, him turning his shoulder, his hips and ducking into a roll to avoid that leaping strike. He comes up and snaps back into stance with his arms falling into a place with a whip-/CRACK!/ of fabric and his eyes holding hers.

He moves in to begin the next part of the dance, bare foot drawing up, leg tensing, firing a blurringly fast sidekick as she moves, then snapping back as his hips turn with a roundhouse slashing through the air as well.

Now she can /feel/ the lash and roil of his focus and chi as he gives more openly to the moment and the improvisation. No longer is he holding to a particular stance or style. He has told that story, now he goes on to speak of himself, of who he is. Much as when she first 'spoke' to him, his movements lead her on the way into his own past.

Cassandra's downward momentum is pulled to the side as he avoids her by so slim a margin others would swear they had contact. One foot hits the mats, knee flexing as the other slides wide, comes around in a broad arc so she's crouched low as he takes his stance.

A heartbeat. Two as they hold each other's gaze in silence. In stillness. And then there is movement again, too fast to see, to follow. There is only the feeling. The knowing. Emptying the mind and letting the body act and react. Arms come up to take the first kick in a block, then taking that momentum and rolling back with it, just avoiding the slash of the roundhouse and then pushing upwards in an uppercut.

And suddenly all formality is gone and he is moving with such freedom as if speaking so openly to her. This is the man that is the Dragon. This is the man that is at home with conflict, at home with the movement of his body and hers when they both try to strike and fill the purity of this moment.

She moves in and she is a swirl of motion, stepping, rolling, then uncoiling upwards with that uppercut.

And he is _flipping_ backwards, arms reaching upwards and his back arching as he snaps both feet up in a back walkover seeking to both avoid her strike as well as to lash out with both feet. Then those powerful arms bend, biceps tensing and he _pushes_ up off the ground to finish that walkover by flipping to his feet and bringing his hands up again.

And therein is where the Dragon has the Batgirl beat. It isn't in the form, because masters of the art have called her 'perfect'. It isn't in strength, even though he has the edge. In the end it isn't even his more than a decade more of experience, though that would likely be enough to beat her. In the end it is that peace with himself that he shares with her. He offers up that truth and in the face of it… she falters.

His feet catch her with the heavy *thud* of impact and send her flying, but this time the Bat doesn't catch herself. She flies back to the air, hitting the mats in a loose tumble of limbs until the wall brings her up short.

He owns himself and his nature, while she is still running from shadows.

And as quickly as that, their conversation is over. When he regains his feet fully he steps out of the stance and she can see in him a whirlwind mix of emotions. It's a crazed chaotic thing, that for an outsider would seem like nothing. It would seem as if two martial artists had simply chosen to end their sparring match.

But as he walks slowly across that room towards her, his footsteps light and even with nary a sound, she can see the pleasure in his eyes at finding a peer. She can see the joy of having had for a time had one 'voice' joined with his own and singing. But she can also see so many other things.

He reaches her and his eyes hold her gaze. There is a sadness in him for what she must have missed… for what had to have been to warp her in such a way. A warmth for what beauty she could still be with the decision she has made. It's all mingled with that ebb and flow of exhaustion, and an affection that borders upon attraction. But for him that is something he sublimates. A price he pays.

When he reaches her he offers a faint smile, gaze not breaking. Then he offers his hand as well to help her up.

When Cassandra hits the wall she lies still for a long moment. It's not the stillness of unconsciousness or death, but more like someone that's gotten hit hard enough they're just gonna lie there and think about it for a bit. And y'know, wait for the world to stop spinning.

Eventually she gives the push to roll over onto her back, head turning towards him as he makes his silent trek over towards her and they just look at each other for those long heartbeats. When he offers her a hand up there's a slight smile, broken a bit by the split lip and the flush of what will be bruises later. And then her hand comes up, clasping his around his forearm as she lets him haul her to her feet.

She's so light, this terribly dangerous little person. She might even catch an echo of those thoughts in his eyes as he helps her to his feet. His own smile is a little rueful then he shakes his head and gives voices to a few of those rare words spent between them. "You are amazing." And as simple as that he passes his 'judgement'. Though when he says this it is not simply about her style, her ability, but about who she is and what she has had to overcome to reach where she is now.

For a time he stands there, terribly close and terribly warm. He looks down at her and shakes his head again as he heaves a small chuckle. The strong hand covering hers gives a firm squeeze, then he turns to start to step away. Already he murmurs to her quietly, "Will you have dinner?"

There's the slight tilt and duck of her head, the shift of her shoulders that says she's uncomfortable with the compliment. Which would be odd given her cocky attitude but it's because it's not just about her skill. Because she's still carrying those shadows, that guilt.

She doesn't reply with words, emotions too thick for her to manage them. Instead she just lets her eyes speak and if he misses it, the way she calls the light of him beautiful well, that's OK too. Sometimes honesty can be embarassing.

She plays at hesitation as she follows him towards the kitchen with careful steps as she takes stock of how badly she's hurt. "Can I answer… after I see it?"

It's strange, but now that they've had their conversation… she can see him more clearly now. He has given himself that freedom, that openness, to simply 'be' with her. It's as if those moments when they matched hand to hand, arm to arm and looked into each other's eyes that she has given him permission to entirely be himself as he was in that moment… and it has carried over to the now.

When she gives him that light verbal jab he looks over his shoulder as he walks across the way. Greyish blue eyes hold hers and he cocks an eyebrow almost with a mischievous air to him. He tells her, "I will do you one better. I will make the stir fry and grant you the right to veto my decisions as I cook."

He reaches that small kitchenette and turns on the double burner of the hot plate, putting a medium sized pan upon it and then adding a smidge of oil. It's then that he digs into the groceries and produces a variety of vegetables and some slices of chicken.

Cassandra looks about, but there's not really a lot of counterspace, so she pulls over one of the 'dining room' chairs, perching on the back of it, feet on the edge of the seat so she can watch him and rest at the same time. Her breathing is slow. Controlled. She aches, but she's used to it. More than, really. "I… don't know how to cook." She admits. And honestly, she'll eat anything. Years living on the street makes one less picky.

Even as she does that, while Richard is starting to chop up some of the vegetables she'll see him rub at the line of his jaw right there where her foot connected strongly with it. But then he'll catch her eye and perhaps in that instant they both will realize what the other is doing. It's enough to draw a rough grin from him as he shakes his head again and adds the chicken to the pan. It makes a nice satisfying sizzle.

"Think you loosened one of my teeth."

In some ways, Cassandra is like a teenaged boy instead of a woman just starting her twenties. Mostly, her lack of table manners and the way she can put away food. If she were a cat, surely her ears would perk as she leans forward a bit and draws a careful inhale. Her ribs would protest being too enthusiastic.

Glancing his way she tilts him a rueful grin of her own. "I'm lucky… I didn't catch my tongue… at the end." She'd be missing part of it!

"I would have felt terrible." Dragon says this and she can see the truth in his words. He lifts a hand to rub at the back of his neck, almost as if embarassed. Then he looks sidelong at her and scrunches up one eye as he tells her, "That's one of the hard parts of training with someone who is so exceptional. Those rare times when a strike gets through… you're not expecting it."

He shakes his head and then slides some of the vegetables in as well, just making a decent little stir fry with a bit of seasoning.

Cassandra doesn't seem to have any issues with what he puts in and, unlike a normal joe, he'd be able to tell. Having taken a breather, Cassandra eases herself back off of the chair, poking around a bit to find a clean cloth. Glancing at him for the OK, she wets it down and uses it to clean up a bit. Knuckles, lip.

Cassandra gives a slight nod at his observation. "I'm not… working. Tonight." This is her choice of how to spend a night off!

The chicken continues to sizzle as he casually pushes it around with a small spatula. He adds some of the vegetables and pushes them around with a casual aplomb. It's curious how he can be so at ease with one thing that takes such coordination, while cooking… well it's not his strongest suit. But to be fair this is a hard thing to mess up.

Looking over at her he chuckles and tells her, "I'm flattered." He pushes the food around some more then casually picks up a piece of chicken from the pan and bites into it. He quirks an eyebrow and yup, it's done. He offers her another piece of she wants to try some before he dishes it up. "Though I was fairly certain I would see you sooner rather than later after our talk at the coffee shop."

Of course, if Oracle finds out that Cassandra got more beat up on a 'night off' than she does all week on patrol, she might have something to say about Cass's extra curricular, as it were.

Without any hesitation or trepidation, she accepts the chicken gingerly. Even tough martial artists can burn their fingers! "Hard… to find someone. To train with." At their skill level, it's a pretty small group.

The chicken is a bit spicy, tasting of soy and something else that's hard to put one's finger on. But it's nicely done for now, if not the best piece of chicken in the world.

"Well, you have found one at the least." He says this with an ease of flow that she can tell no forethought entered into it. But then she might catch the faint furrow of his brow, a moment's hesitation that most anyone would miss. Instead he pushes the food around and then reaches for the plates. A modest portion is pushed onto each and he offers her one with a pair of chopsticks as he tells her calmly. "Though you should perhaps spend some time with your contemporaries as well."

The chair Cassandra drug over is pushed back into place near the table with a foot while she acceps the plate and chopsticks with her hands. When she sits down, her feet get tucked under her so she's sitting cross-legged instead of with her feet properly on the ground. One might think she has an aversion to it the way she's always somewhere with some height but he doesn't read that on her.

One thing that Richard learns very quickly is that though Cassandra can use chopsticks… she has terrible, terrible table manners. The way she shoves food in her mouth she can't actually have *tasted* any of it. Sauce stains her mouth and is absently wiped at with the back of one hand. It's the way she slightly hunches over her food that tells a story, as much as the rapid, messy eating.

The thing is that when a man spends as much time observing others as well as on introspection, they can read the stories that are there in another's actions. His lip lifts slightly, just at the corner, not out of amusement but again that touch of sadness. He lifts the pan again to give her some more if she wishes, her permission asked by a slight lifting of his head.

Words are abandoned for the moment as he then holds up a hand before her, as if to gain her attention. Then slowly, with some of the same precision she saw only moments ago he picks up a small piece of chicken from his plate and lifts it to his mouth. He takes his time chewing, enjoying the flavor. Not a terribly long time, just long enough to savor. Then he swallows.

Then he spears a small piece of chicken on her plate and extends it towards her for her to take. His eyebrows lift slightly as his other hand opens and he gestures for her to take her time. To enjoy.

She has no need of a teacher to learn the ways of conflict. But perhaps at least in this small way he can grant her something for her time.

Cassandra's seen the way that Oracle looks at her when she eats. These days, it's usually exasperated. Probably one of the reasons that Cassandra tends to eat alone. So she doesn't make that vein in Oracle's head throb. She's lived with the other woman long enough they've gone through the stages. Happy that the street urchin is eating, to trying to teach her proper table manners, to frustration as the girl just doesn't see the *point* to finally the exasperation. Hints of that ongoing conflict are there in Cassandra's dark eyes as her chewing slows while she watches the Dragon.

Oh yeah, she can see he's trying to play Teacher again, and there's a slight smirk his way. With lifted brow, she takes the offered bite, but even with the slow chewing it's clear she doesn't get as much out of it as he does. She doesn't really *enjoy* it the way he does.

His own smirk flickers to life as he looks at her, then he shakes his head and waves a hand as if to say, 'Very well, stuff your face.' But he takes his time with his own plate, having barely eaten a quarter of the food himself. He leans to the side and lets his gaze drift over the room.

His eyes distance and as she watches she might realize… yes his gaze moves there… then to there. He's replaying their fight in his mind, reliving it in his thoughts as well. One eyebrow lifts as he reflects on something, then he shakes his head again and looks back towards her. "I believe I know how to make you a better fighter."

Cassandra will finish long before he does. Also, despite the cleaning up of the blood from earlier, it doesn't look like she minds being dirty else she'd wear a little less of her food.

Her chewing does slow as she watches him, gaze flitting over to the floor for a long moment and then back to him. When he makes his claim she arches both of her brows upwards. Skeptical, but she's listening. Not skeptical that he could teach her, or that she could get better. More that he would figure it out just like that.

There's a solemn nod given to her as he straightens up a bit, still taking his time with his food. He lifts the chopsticks to point at her as he makes this point when he tells her, "You need to focus your efforts…" His gaze lifts upwards as if searching for the right wording, then they look down to meet her eyes as he gets that faintly wry half-smile when he adds, "On becoming taller."

Another solemn nod as he imparts this wisdom, going back to his dish of food and looking downwards to avoid the reprisal that is assuredly coming. "Perhaps you could sleep upside down hanging from the ceiling. That would be strangely fitting."

Dark eyes watch Richard Dragon, 'listening' as much with them as she does her eyes. Her brows climb slowly higher as he drags out his thought… and then she blinks at him. Then blinks again. The suggestion of sleeping arrangements gets a roll of her eyes, but also the hint of a smirk, followed by a soft huff of amusement.

With the obviously Asian traits, she was probably destined to be short. Malnutrition for years made sure of it. "Don't take… that too seriously." She replies wryly.

Then he shrugs and sets his now empty plate down. He gains his feet slowly and streeeetches his arms upwards as he releases some of the tension building in those joints. It must be a curious thing for her to see in another person, that release and the pure good feeling of just letting the body tense and then unfold. He rolls one shoulder, still wincing faintly from one of her stiffened finger jabs, then he looks to her and smiles. "You are welcome to stay if you wish. I was going to go shower and then perhaps a few exercises before I retire for the evening."

There's a pause after he says this and she can see the ghost of hesitation there. It's seen in the faint knitting of his brow, the slight pause when he finishes speaking. But then he adds quietly, "You will always be welcome here." He extends his hand towards her, offering it in a gesture whose significance he's not entirely sure of.

Not a lot of people 'get' Cassandra's view on fighting. Violence. Combat. Most don't even realize they're not getting it. Even with the company she keeps, she's mostly a mystery to them. So she watches the Dragon with something akin to wonder. Because she sees things in him that she sees in herself.

The offer makes her stand, and there's that quiet, silent pause that usually means she's thinking. It's not even the words that make her take her time like that. Learning words changed the world as she knew it, as though the dimension of time was mostly absent from her world and there was just the 'now', moment blending into moment. "I should… get back." She admits.

The statement of her welcome and the extended hand gets less of a pause, but no words. Not the usual 'thank you' or any fluff. Just the clasping of his hand in hers, the meeting of eyes-to-eyes that convey her thanks. How she's moved.

His other hand reaches to clasp her forearm, as if to lend the emphasis of the feeling to her with that small gesture. And then he releases her hand. His smile is a gentle thing and she can see in his gaze there's a genuine affection for her, a kinship that he espies in her that mirrors some of his own experiences.

And then the touch is slipping away, fingertips lingering for a bare moment before gliding away… then gone.

He turns and moves towards that winding wrought-iron staircase in the back that leads to his private quarters. Over his shoulder he tells her with a small smile she cannot see. "Next time you cook." And that's that.

He can hear the short, sharp bark of a laugh at *that* suggestion. He might well regret that in the future. Then, she makes her way out, her feet silent on the padded mats. At least this time she uses the front door to let herself out.

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